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Full text of "The rock ahead [electronic resource]: a novel"

l AMES ffi4i RAFF; 

Baltimore 



xm,2.\ 




ROBERT W. WOODRUFF 
LIBRARY 




THE ROOK AHEAD. 



WTMAJI A1TD SONS, PEINIEES, GBEAT (JUEEN STBEET, 
LIJfCOLIf'S-IlTN FIELDS, W. C. 



THE EOCK AHEAD. 



% gofatL 



sy 



EDMUND YATES, 

AUTHOR OF 
"BLACK SHEEP," "KISSING THE ROD,' 7 "THE FORLORN HOPE," ETC. 



" The Gods are just ; and of our pleasant vices 
Make instruments to scourge us." 



A NEW EDITION. 



LONDON: 

TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18, CATHERINE ST., STRAND. 

1869. 



[All rights reserved.] 



TO M. E— d. FOEGUBS. 

Mt deae Sir, 

Although. I have not the pleasure of your 
personal acquaintance, I venture to ask you to accept 
the dedication of this book, in slight acknowledgment 
of the admirable manner in which you have repro- 
duced two of my previous stories (Broken to Harness 
and The Forlorn Hope) in the pages of the Revue des 
Deux Mondes, and of the flattering way in which you 
have frequently referred to my writings in that excel- 
lent periodical. 

Faithfully yours, 

EDMUND YATES. 

London, April, 1868. 



CONTENTS. 



prologue. 

CBAPTEE PAGE 

I. WHISPERED 9 

II. PONDERED 24 

III. PROPOSED 36 

IT. SETTLED 43 

33oofc tije dftnst. 

I. ROWLEY COURT 54 

II. IN POSSESSION 68 

III. CARABAS HOUSE 80 

IV. BREAKING COVER 89 

V. MEMORY-HAUNTED 99 

vi. Lloyd's luck 109 

VII. THE LINNET'S CAGE 127 

VIII. THE LINNET'S FIRST FLIGHT 139 

IX. SOARING 160 

3Sook tfje Hecontf. 

I. PROGRESS 167 

II. INTEGRATIO AMORIS 182 

III. AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE 194 

IV. PURSUIT 203 



V1U CONTENTS. 

2Sook ti)t &tcoi\U {continued) 

CHAPTEB PAGE 

V. REBUFFED 209 

VI. GERTRUDE SPEAKS 220 

VII. HALF-REVEALED 234 

vni. l'homme propose 242 

ix. dieu dispose 259 

33oolt tty £I)irlf. 

1. .SGROTAT ANIMO 271 

II. RECOGNITION 288 

III. A MINE IS LAID 299 

IV. PERPLEXITY 315 

V. AN EXPLOSION 334 

VI. THE LAST CHANCE 360 

VII. INELUCTABILE FATUM 368 

VIII. A LAST MESSAGE 378 

IX. TWELVE MONTHS AFTER 392 



THE BOOK AHEAD. 



CHAPTER I. 

WHISPERED. 

HOT in Brighton, very hot. The August sun reflected 
off white-chalk cliff and red-brick pavement, and the 
sea shining and sparkling like a sapphire ; the statue of 
George the Fourth, in its robe of verdigris, looking on in 
blighted perspiration at the cabmen at its base, as though 
imploring a drink ; the cabmen lolling un demonstratively 
on the boxes of their vehicles, not seeking for employ- 
ment, and — partly by reason of the heat, but more, perhaps, 
in consequence of the money received recently at the races 
— rather annoyed than otherwise when their services were 
called into requisition. For the Brighton races had just 
taken place, and the town, always so full, had been more 
crammed than ever. All the grand hotels had been filled 
with the upper ten thousand, who moved easily over from 
Chichester and Worthing and Bognor, where they had been 
staying for Goodwood, which immediately precedes Brighton ; 
and all the lodgings had been taken by the betting-men and 
the turfites, — the " professionals," with whom the whole 
affair is the strictest matter of business, and to whom it is 
of no interest whether the race is run at Torquay or Wolver- 
hampton, in blazing sunshine or pouring hailstorm, so long as 
the right thing "comes off," and they " land the winner." 

It was all right for the bookmakers this time at Brighton : 
the favourites, against which so much money had been 

B 



10 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

staked, had been beaten, and " dark " horse?, scarcely heard 
of, and backed for nothing, had carried off the principal 
prizes. So it followed that most of the gentry of the betting- 
ring, instead of hurrying off to the scene of their next trials 
of fortune, finding themselves with plenty of money in their 
pockets, at a pleasant place in lovely weather, made up their 
minds to remain there during the intervening Saturday and 
Sunday, and to drop business so far as possible until the 
Monday morning, when they would speed away by the early 
express-trains. 

So far as possible, but not entirely. It is impossible for 
them to drop business altogether, even on this glorious Sunday 
afternoon, when the whole face of Nature is blandly smiling. 
See the broad blue bosom of the sea smooth and sparkling 
as glass, dotted here and there with white-sailed pleasure- 
boats ; see far away, beyond the encircling belt of brick and 
stone, the broad shoulder of the bare and bushless downs, 
over which the fresh air careering comes away laden with 
the delicious scents of trodden turf and wild thyme and 
yellow gorse ; see the brown beach, where under the lee of 
the fishing-smacks, or making a table of the large flukes 
of rusty anchors, sit groups of excursionists, — pallid Lon- 
doners exulting in the unwonted luxury of escaping from 
the stony streets, and more excited by the brisk and revi- 
vifying sea air than by the contents of the stone bottle 
which stands in the midst of each group, and whose contents 
are so perpetually going round from hand to hand in the 
little footless glass j see the Esplanade thronged with its 
hundreds of foot passengers, its scores of flies and carriages ; 
see the Stock Exchange in all its glory, and the children of 
Israel gorgeous in long ringlets, thunder-and-lightning neck- 
ties, and shot-silk parasols ; and see the turf-men standing 
here and there in little knots, trying to be interested in the 
scenes passing around them, but ever and again turning to 
each other with some question of " odds," for some scrap of 
" intelligence." 

The ring is strongly represented this Sunday afternoon 
on Brighton Parade, both in its highest and its lowest form. 
The short stout man in the greasy suit of black, with the 
satin waistcoat frayed round the pockets by the rubbing of 
his silver watch-guard, who is jotting down memoranda with 
a fat cedar-pencil in his betting-book, enters freely into con- 



WHISPERED. 1 1 

versation and is on an equality with the gentlemanly-looking 
man whose only visible " horseyness " is expressed in his 
tightly-cut trousers and his bird's-eye neckerchief with the 
horseshoe pin. Patrons of the turf, owners of race-borses r 
commission-agents, book-makers, touts, tipsters, hangers-on 
of every kind in turf speculations and turf iniquities, are 
here at Brighton on this lovely Sunday afternoon. 

There was one group, consisting of three people, planted 
on the Esplanade, just in front of the Old Ship Hotel, the 
three component members of which were recognized and 
saluted by nearly every one who passed. One of them was 
a short square-built man, with keen eyes closely set and 
sunken, small red whiskers, and a sharp-pointed nose. He 
was dressed in black, with a wonderfully neatly-tied long 
white cravat, folded quite flat, with a dog's tooth set in gold 
for a pin ; and he wore a low-crowned hat. The other two- 
were yourig men, dressed in the best style of what is known 
as " horsey get-up." They had been talking and laughing 
ever since they had taken up their position, immediately 
after lunching at the hotel, out of which they had strolled 
with cigars in their mouths ; and it was obvious that any 
respect which the elder man might receive was not paid to 
him on account of his age, but rather in acknowledgment of 
the caustic remarks with which he amused his companions. 
These remarks seemed at last to have come to an end. 
There had been a long silence, which was broken by the 
elder man asking, — 

" O, seen anything of Gore — Harvey Gore ? Has he 
gone back, or what 1 " 

" Don't know ; haven't seen him since Thursday night," 
said the taller of the young men. 

" Won a pot of money on the Cup," said the other sen- 
tentiously ; " regular hatful." 

" What did his pal do V asked the elder man. " Lloyd 
I mean. Did he pull through t " 

" Dropped his tin, Foxey dear. Held on like grim death 
to Gaslight, and was put in the hole like the rest of us. He 
tells me he has been hit for " 

"He tells you!" interrupted the elder man ; "he tells 
you ! I've known Gilbert Lloyd for two or three years, and 
anything he tells me I should take deuced good care not to 
believe." 



12 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" Very good, Foxey dear ! very nice, you sweet old thing ! 
only don't halloo out quite so loud, because here's G. L. 

coming across the road to speak to us, and he mightn't 

How do, Lloyd, old fellow ? " 

The new-comer was a man of about four-and-twenty, a 
little above the middle height, and slightly but strongly 
built. His face would generally have been considered hand- 
some, though a physiognomist would have read shiftiness 
and suspicion in the small and sunken blue eyes, want of 
geniality in the tightly-closing mouth -visible under the 
slight fair moustache, and determination in the jaw. Though 
there was a slight trace of the stable in his appearance, he 
was decidedly more gentlemanly-looking than his com- 
panions, having a distinct stamp of birth and breeding 
which they lacked. He smiled as he approached the group, 
and waved a small stick which he carried in a jaunty 
manner ; but Foxey noticed a flushed appearance round his 
eyes, an eager worn straining round his mouth, and said to 
his friend who had last spoken, " You're right, Jack ; Lloyd 
has had it hot and strong this time, and no mistake." 

The young man had by this time crossed the road and 
stood leaning over the railing. In answer to a repetition of 
their salutes, he said, — 

" Not very bright. None of us are always up to the 
mark, save Foxey here, who is perennial ; and just now I'm 
worried and bothered. 0, not as you fellows imagine," he 
said hastily, as he saw a smile go round ; and as he said it 
his face darkened, and the clenching of his jaws gave him a 
very savage expression, — "not from what I've dropped at 
this meeting ; that's neither here nor thei*e : lightly come, 
lightly gone ; but the fact is that Gore, who is living with 
me over there, is deuced seedy." 

" Thought he looked pulled and done on Thursday," said 
Foxey. "Didn't know whether it was backing Gaslight 
that had touched him up, or " 

" No," interrupted Lloyd, hurriedly ; " a good deal of 
champagne under a tremendously hot sun ; that's the cause, 
I believe. Harvey has a way of turning up his little finger 
under excitement, and never will learn to moderate his 
transports. He's overdone it this time, and I'm afraid is 
really bad. I must send for a doctor ; and now I'm off to 
the telegraph-office, to send a message to my wife. Gore 



WHISPERED. 1 3 

was to have cleai'ed out of this early this morning, to spend 
a day or two with Sandcrack, the vet, at Shoreham ; and 
my proprietress was coming down here ; but there's no room 
for her now, and I must put her off." 

" Do you think Harvey Gore's really bad 1 " asked one of 
the younger men. 

" Well, I think he's got something like sunstroke, and I 
Jcnov) he's a little off his head," responded Lloyd. " He'll 
pull round, I dare say — I've no doubt. But still he can't 
be moved just yet, and a woman would only be in the way 
under such circumstances, let alone it's not being very lively 
for her ; so I'll just send her a message to keep off. Ta-ta ! 
I shall look into the smoking-room to-night at the Ship, 
when Harvey's gone off to sleep." And with a nod and a 
smile, Gilbert Lloyd started off. 

" Queer customer that, Foxey." 

" Queer indeed ; which his golden number is Number 
One ! " said Foxey, enigmatically. 

" What's his wife like 1 " 

" Never saw her," said Foxey ; " but I should think she 
had a pleasant time of it with that youth. It will be an 
awful disappointment to him, her not coming down, won't 
it ? " 

"Foxey, you are an unbeliever of the deepest dye. 
Domestic happiness in your eyes is " 

" Bosh ! You never said a truer word. Now, let's have 
half-a-crown's- worth of fly, and go up the cliff." 

A short time after Gilbert Lloyd had left the house in 
which he had taken lodgings, consisting of the parlour-floor 
and a bedroom upstairs, Mrs. Bush, the landlady, whose 
mind was rather troubled, partly because the servant, whose 
"Sunday out" it was, had not yet returned from the 
Methodist chapel where she performed her devotions — a 
delay which her mistress did not impute entirely to the 
blandishments of the preacher — and partly for other reasons, 
took up her position in the parlour-window, and began to 
look up and down the street. Mrs. Bush was not a land- 
lady of the jolly type ; she was not ruddy of complexion, or 
thin and trim of ankle, neither did she adorn herself with 
numerous ribbons of florid hue. On the contrary, she was 
a pale, anxious-faced woman, who looked as if she had had 



14 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

too much to do, and quite enough to fret about, all her life. 
And now, as she stood in the parlour-window on a hot 
Sunday, and contemplated the few loungers who straggled 
through the street on their way to the sea-shore, she assumed 
a piteous expression of countenance, and shook her head 
monotonously. 

" I wish I hadn't let 'em the rooms, I'm sm'e," said Mrs. 
Bush to herself. " It's like my luck — and in the race-week 
too. If he's able to be up and away from this in a day or 
two, then i" know nothing of sickness ; and I've seen a 
good deal of it too in my time. No sign of that girl ! But 
who's this?" 

Asking this, under the circumstances, unsatisfactory ques- 
tion, Mrs. Bush drew still closer to the parlour-window, 
holding the inevitable red-moreen curtain still farther back, 
and looked with mingled curiosity and helplessness at a cab 
which stopped unmistakably at the door of her house, and 
from the window of which a handsome young female head 
protruded itself. Mrs. Bush could not doubt that the in- 
tention of the lady in the cab was to get out of it and come 
into her house ; and that good-for-nothing Betsy had not 
come in, and there was nobody to open the door but Mrs. 
Bush — a thing which, though a meek-enough woman in 
general, she did not like doing. The lady gave her very 
little time to consider whether she liked it or not ; for she 
descended rapidly from the cab, took a small travelling-bag 
from the hand of the cabman, paid him, mounted the three 
steps which led to the door, and knocked and rang with so 
determined a purpose of being admitted, that Mrs. Bush, 
without a moment's hesitation, — but with a muttered 
" Mercy on us ! Suppose he'd been asleep now ! " which 
seemed to imply that the lady's vehemence might probably 
damage somebody's nerves, — crossed the hall and opened 
the door. 

She found herself confronted by a very young lad)', a girl 
of not more, and possibly less, than nineteen years, in whose 
manner there was a certain confidence strongly suggestive 
of her entertaining an idea that the house which she was 
■evidently about to enter was her own, and not that of the 
quiet, but not well-pleased, looking person who asked her 
civilly enough, yet not with any cordiality of tone, whom 
she wished to see. 



WHISPERED. 15 

" Is Mr. Lloyd Dot at home ? This is his address, I 
know," was the enigmatical reply of the young lady. 

" A Mr. Lloyd is lodging here, miss," returned Mrs. Bush, 
with a glance of anything but approbation at her questioner, 
and planting herself rather demonstratively in the doorway ; 
" but he isn't in. Did you wish to see him 1 " 

'• I am Mrs. Lloyd," replied the young lady, with a frown, 
and depositing her little travelling-bag within the threshold ; 
" did you not know I was coming ? Let me in, please." 

And the next minute — Mrs. Bush could not tell exactly 
how it happened — she found the hall-door shut, and she 
was standing in the passage, while the young lady who had 
announced herself as Mrs. Lloyd was calmly walking into 
the parlour. Mrs. Bush was confounded by the sudden and 
unexpected nature of this occurrence ; but the only thing 
she could do was to follow the unlooked-for visitor into the 
parlour, and she did it. The young lady had already seated 
herself on a small hard sofa, covered with crimson moreen 
to match the window-curtains, had put off her very be- 
coming and fashionable bonnet, and was then taking off her 
gloves. She looked annoyed, but not in the least em- 
barrassed. 

" That is Mr. Lloyd's room, I presume 1 " she said, as she 
pointed to the folding-doors which connected the parlours, 
and which stood slightly open. 

" Yes, m'm ; but " 

Mrs. Bush hesitated ; but as the young lady rose, took up 
her bag, and instantly pushed the door she had indicated 
quite open, and walked into the apartment, Mrs. Bush felt 
that the case was getting desperate. Though a depressed 
woman habitually, she was not by any means a timid one, 
and had fought many scores of highly successful battles with 
lodgers in her time. But this was quite a novel experience, 
and Mrs. Bush was greatly at a loss how to act. Something- 
must be done, that was quite clear. Not so what that 
something was to be ; and more than ever did Mrs. Bush 
resent the tarrying of Betsy's feet on her return from 
Beulah Chapel. 

"She would have shut the door in her face, and kept her 
out until I saw how things really were," thought the 
aggrieved landlady ; but she said boldly enough, as she 
closely followed the intruder, and glanced at her left 



16 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

hand, on which the symbol of lawful matrimony duly 
shone, — 

"If you please, m'm, you wasn't expected. Mr. Lloyd 
nor the other gentleman never mentioned that there was a 
lady coming ; and I don't in general let my parlours to 
ladies." 

" Indeed ! that is very awkward," said the young lady, 
who had opened her bag, taken out her combs and brushes, 
and was drawing a chair to the dressing-table ; " but it 
cannot be helped. Mr. Lloyd quite expected me, I know ; 
he arranged that I should come down to-morrow before he 
left town ; but it suited me better to come to-day. I can't 
think why he did nob tell you." 

"I suppose he forgot it, m'm," said Mrs. Bush, utterly 
regardless of the uncomplimentary nature of the suggestion, 
" on account of the sick gentleman ; but it's rather un- 
fortunate, for I never do take in ladies, not in my parlours ; 
and Mr. Lloyd not having mentioned it, I " 

" Do you mean to say that I cannot remain here with 
my husband 1 " said the young lady, turning an astonished 
glance upon Mrs. Bush. 

" Well, m'm," said the nervous landlady, " as it's for a 
short time only as Mr. Lloyd has taken the rooms, and as 
it's Sunday, I shall see, when he comes in. You see, m'm, 
I've rather particular people in my drawing-rooms, and it's 

different about ladies ; and " Here she glanced once 

more at the light girlish figure, in the well-fitting, fashion- 
able dress, standing before the dressing-table, and at the 
white hand adorned with the orthodox ring. 

" I think I understand you," said the intruder, gravely ; 
" you did not know Mr. Lloyd was married, and you are not 
sure that I am his wife. It is a difficulty, and I really 
don't see how it is to be gotten over. "Will you take his 
word 1 — at all events, I may remain here until he comes in 
presently ? " 

Something winning, something convincing, in the tone of 
her voice caused a sudden revulsion of feeling in Mrs. Bush. 
The good woman — for she was a good woman in the main 
— began to feel rather ashamed of herself, and she com- 
menced a bungling sort of apology. Of course the lady 
could stay, but it was awkward Mr. Lloyd not having told 
her ; and there was but one servant, a good-for-nothing 



WHISPERED. 17 

hussy as ever stepped — and over-staying her time now to 
that degree, that she expected the "drawing-rooms" would 
not have their dinner till ever so late ; but at this point the 
young lady interrupted her. 

"If I may stay for to-night," she said gently, and with 
a very frank smile, which made Mrs. Bush feel indignant 
with herself, as well as ashamed, " some other arrangement 
can be made to-morrow ; and I require no waiting-on. I 
shall give you no trouble, or as little as possible." 

Mrs. Bush could not hold out any longer. She told the 
young lady she could certainly stay for that day and night, 
and as for to-morrow, she would " see about it ; " and then, 
at the dreaded summons of the impatient " drawing-rooms," 
bustled away, saying she would return presently, and " see 
to " the stranger herself. 

Pretty girls in pretty dresses are not rarities in the 
lodging-houses of Brighton ; indeed, it would perhaps be 
difficult to name any place where they are to be seen more 
frequently, or in greater numbers ; but the toilet-glass en 
the table in the back bed-room of Mrs. Bush's lodging-house, 
a heavy article of furniture, with a preponderance of frame, 
had probably reflected few such faces as that of the lady 
calling herself Mrs. Lloyd, who looked attentively into it 
when she found herself alone, and decided that she was not 
so very dusty, considering. 

She was rather tall, and her figure was slight and girlish, 
but firm and well-developed. She carried her head grace- 
fully ; and something in her attitude and air suggested to 
the beholder that she was not more commonplace in cha- 
racter than in appearance. Her complexion was very fair 
and clear, but not either rosy or milky ; very young as she 
was, she looked as if she had thought too much and lived 
too much to retain the ruddiness and whiteness of colouring 
which rarely coexist with intellectual activity or sensitive 
feelings. Her features were well-formed ; but the face was 
one in which a charm existed different from, and superior 
to, any which merely lies in regularity of feature. It was 
to be found mainly in the eyes and mouth. The eyes were 
brown in colour — the soft rich deep brown in which the 
pupil confounds itself with the iris ; and the curling lashes 
harmonized with both ; eyes not widely opened, but yet 
with nothing sly or hidden in their semi-veiled habitual 

C 



18 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

look — eyes which, when suddenly lifted up, and opened in 
surprise, pleasure, anger, or any other emotion, instantly 
convinced the person who received the glance that they 
were the most beautiful he had ever seen. The eyebrows 
were dark and arched, and the forehead, of that peculiar 
formation and width above the brow which phrenologists 
hold to indicate a talent for music, was framed in rippling 
bands of dark chestnut hair. 

She was a beautiful and yet more a remarkable-lookiug 
young woman, girlish in some points of her appearance, and 
in her light lithe movements, but with something ungirlish, 
and even hard, in her expression. This something was in 
the mouth : not small enough to be silly, not large enough 
to be defective in point of proportion ; the line of the lips 
was sharp, decisive, and cold ; richly coloured, as befitted 
her youth, they were not young lips — they did not smile 
spontaneously, or move above the small white teeth with 
every thought and fancy, but moved deliberately, opening 
and closing at her will only. What it was in Mrs. Lloyd's face 
which contradicted the general expression of youth which it 
wore would have been seen at once if she had placed her 
hand across her eyes. The beaming brown eyes, the faintly- 
tinted rounded cheeks, were the features of a girl — the 
forehead and the mouth were the features of a woman who 
had left girlhood a good way behind her, and travelled 
over some rough roads and winding ways since she had lost 
sight of it. 

When Mrs. Bush returned, she found the stranger in the 
front parlour, but not standing at the window, looking out 
for the return of her husband ; on the contrary, she was 
seated at the prim round table, listlessly turning over some 
newspapers and railway literature left there by Gilbert 
Lloyd. Once again Mrs. Bush looked at her with sharp 
suspicion ; once again she was disarmed by her beauty, her 
composure, and the sweetness of her smile. 

"Mr. Lloyd is not in yet, m'm," began Mrs. Bush, "and 
you'll be wanting your lunch." 

" No, thank you," said Mrs. Lloyd ; " I can wait. I sup- 
pose you don't know when he is likely to be in 1 " 

" He said directly," replied Mrs. Bush ; " and I wish he 
had kept to it, for I can't think the sick gentleman is any 



WHISPERED. 19 

Letter. I've been to look at him, and he seems to me a deal 
worse since morning." 

Mrs. Lloyd looked rather vacantly at Mrs. Bush. " Have 
you a lodger ill in the house ? " she asked. " That makes 
it still more inconvenient for you to receive me." 

Mrs. Bush felt uncomfortable at this question. How very 
odd that Mrs. Lloyd should not know about her husband's 
friend ! They are evidently queer people, thought the 
landlady ; and she answered, rather stiffly, — 

" The only lodger ill in the house, m'm, is the gentle- 
man as came with Mr. Lloyd ; and, in my opinion, he's 
very ill indeed." 

" Came with Mr. Lloyd ? " said the young lady, in a tone 
of great surprise. " Do you mean Mr. Gore ? Can you 
possibly mean Mr. Gore ? " 

" Just him," answered Mrs. Bush succinctly. " Didn't 
you know he was here with Mr. Lloyd 1 " 

" I knew he was coming to Brighton with him, certainly," 
said Mrs. Lloyd ; " but I understood he was to leave im- 
mediately after the races — before I came down. What 
made him stay 1 " 

Mrs. Bush drew near the table, and, leaning her hands 
tipon it, fell into an easy tone of confidential chat with Mrs. 
Lloyd. That lady sat still, looking thoughtfully before her, 
as the landlady began, but after a little resting her head on 
her hand and covering her eyes. 

" He stayed, m'm, because he was very ill, uncommon 
ill to be sure ; I never saw a gentleman iller, nor more stub- 
born. His portmanteau was packed and ready when he 
went to the races, and he told Betsy he shouldn't be five 
minutes here when he'd come back ; and Mr. Lloyd said 
to him in my hearing, ' Gore,' said he, ' how your digestion 
stands the tricks you play with it, I can not understand ; ' for 
they'd been breakfasting, and he had eat unwholesome, I 
can't say otherwise. But when they come from the races, 
they come in a cab, which wasn't usual ; and, not to offend 
you, m'm, Mr. Lloyd had had quite enough" (here she 
paused for an expression of annoyance on the part of her 
hearer ; but no such manifestation was made) ; " but Mr. 
Gore, he was far gone, and a job we had to get him upstairs 
without disturbing the drawing-rooms, I can assure you. 

c 2 



20 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



And Mr. Lloyd told me he had been very ill all day at the 
races, and wouldn't come home or let them fetch a doctor — 
there were ever so many there — or anything, but would 
go on drinking ; and when he put him in a cab, he wanted 
to take him to a doctor's, but he wouldn't go ; and Mr. 
Lloyd did say, m'ni, begging your pardon, that Mr. Gore 
damned the doctors, and said all the medicine he ever took, 
or ever would take, was in his portmanteau." 

" Was there no doctor sent for, then ? Has nothing been 
done for him 1 " asked Mrs. Lloyd, with some uneasiness in 
her tone, removing her hand from her eyes and looking full 
at Mrs. Bush. 

" "We've done — Betsy and me and Mr. Lloyd ; for no one 
could be more attentive — all we could ; but Mr. Gore was 
quite sensible, and have a doctor he would not ; and what 
could we do ? We gave him the medicine out of the case 
in his portmanteau. I mixed it and all, and he told me 
how, quite well ; and this morning he was ever so much 
better." 

" And is he worse now 1 Who is with him ?" asked Mrs. 
Lloyd, rising. 

'• Well, m'm, I think he looks a deal worse ; and I wish 
Mr. Lloyd was come in, because I think he ought to send for 
a doctor ; I don't know what to do." 

" Who is with him ? " repeated Mrs. Lloyd. 

" No one," returned Mrs. Bush. " No one is with him. 
When Mr. Lloyd went out, he told me Mr. Gore felt inclined 
to sleep : he had had some tea and was better, and I was not 
to let him be disturbed. But when I was upstairs just now, I 
heard him give a moan ; and I knew he was not asleep, so I 
went in : and he looks very bad, and I couldn't s?et a word 
out of him but ' Where's Lloyd 1 '" 

" Take me to his room at once," said Mrs. Lloyd, " and 
send for a doctor instantly. We must not wait for anything." 

But the incorrigible Betsy had not yet returned, and Mrs. 
Bush explained to the stranger that she had no means of 
sending for a doctor until she could send Betsy 

"Let me see Mr. Gore first for a minute, and then I will 
fetch the nearest doctor myself," said Mrs. Lloyd ; and, passing 
out of the room as she spoke, she began to ascend the narro£ 
staircase, followed by the landlady, instructing her that the 



WHISPERED. 21 

room in which the sick man was to be found was the " two- 
pair front." 

The room in which the sick man lay was airy, and toler- 
ably large. As Gertrude Lloyd softly turned the handle of 
the door, and entered, the breeze, which bore with it a 
mingled flavour of the sea and the dust, fluttered the scanty 
window-curtains of white dimity, and caused the draperies 
of the bed to flap dismally. The sun streamed into the 
room, but little impeded by the green blinds, which shed a 
sickly hue over everything, and lent additional ghastliness to 
the face, which was turned away from Gertrude when she 
entered the chamber. The bed, a large structure of extra- 
ordinary height, stood in front of one of the windows ; the 
furniture of the room was of the usual lodging-house quality; 
an open portmanteau, belching forth tumbled shirts and 
rumpled pocket-handkerchiefs, gaped wide upon the floor ; 
the top of the chest of drawers was covered with bottles, 
principally of the soda-water pattern, but of which one 
contained a modicum of brandy, and another some fluid 
magnesia. Everything in the room was disorderly and 
uncomfortable ; and Gertrude's quick eye took in all this 
discomfort and its details in a glance, while she stepped 
lightly across the floor and approached the bed. 

The sunlight was shining on Harvey Gore's face, and 
showed her how worn and livid, how ghastly and distorted, 
it was. He lay quite still, and took no notice of her 
presence. Instantly perceiving the effect of the green blind, 
Gertrude went to the window and pulled it up, then 
beckoned Mrs. Bush to her side, and once more drew near 
the bed. 

" Mr. Gore," she said, " Mr. Gore ! Do you not know me ? 
Can you not look at me ? Can you not speak to me 1 I am 
Mrs. Lloyd." 

The sick man answered her only with a groan. His face 
was an awful ashen grey ; his shoulders were so raised that 
the head seemed to be sunken upon the chest ; and his body 
lay upon the bed with unnatural weight and stillness. One 
hand was hidden by the bedclothes, the other clutched a 
corner of the pillow with cramped and rigid fingers. The 
two women exchanged looks of alarm. 

"Was he looking like this when you saw him last — since 



22 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

I came ? " said Mrs. Lloyd, speaking in a distinct low tone 
directed completely into the ear of the listener. 

" No, no ; nothing like so bad as he looks now," said Mrs. 
Bush, whose distended eyes were fixed upon the patient with 
an expression of unmitigated dismay. " Did you ever see 
any one die ? " she whispered to Gertrude Lloyd. 
" No ; never." 

" Then you will see it, and soon." 

" Do you really think he is dying ? " and then she leaned 
over him, shook him very gently by the shoulder, loosened 
his hold of the pillow, and said again, — 

" Mr. Gore ! Mr. Gore ! Do you not know me ? Can 
you not speak to me ? " 

Again he groaned, and then, feebly opening his eyes, so 
awfully glazed and hollow that Gertrude recoiled with an 
irrepressible start, made a movement with his head. 

" He knows me," whispered Gertrude to Mrs. Bush ; " for 
God's sake go for a doctor without an instant's delay ! I 
must stay with him." 

The landlady, dreadfully frightened, was only too glad to 
escape from the room. 

For a few moments after she was left alone with the sick 
man Gertrude stood beside him quite still and silent ; then 
he moved uneasily, again groaned, and made an ineffectual 
attempt to sit up in his bed. Gertrude tried to assist him ; 
she passed her arms round his shoulders, and put all her 
strength to the effort to raise him, but in vain. The large 
heavy frame slipped from her hold, and sunk down again 
with ominous weight and inertness. Looking around in 
great fear, but still preserving her calmness, she perceived 
the bottle in which some brandy still remained. In an 
instant she had filled a wine-glass with the spirit, lifted the 
sufferer's feeble head, and contrived to pour a small quantity 
down his throat. The stimulant acted for a little upon the 
dying man ; he looked at her with eyes in which an 
intelligent purpose pierced the dull glaze preceding the 
fast-coming darkness, stretched his hand out to her and 
drew her nearer, nearer. Gertrude bent over him until her 
chestnut hair touched his wan livid temples, and then 
when her face was on a level with his own, he whispered in 

her ear. 

« * -::- * » 



WHISPERED. 23 

Mrs. Bush had not gone many steps away from her own 
li all-door when she met Gilbert Lloyd. He was walking 
slowly, his hands thrust deep into his pockets, his head bent, 
his eyes frowning and downcast, and his under-lip firmly 
held by his white, sharp, even teeth, He did not see Mrs. 
Bush until she came close up to him, and exclaimed, — 

" O, Mr. Lloyd, how thankful I am I've met you ! The 
gentleman is very bad indeed — -just gone, sir — and I was 
going for a doctor. There's not a moment to lose." 

Gilbert Lloyd's face turned perfectly white. 

" Impossible, Mrs. Bush," he said; " you must be mistaken. 
He was much better when I left him ; besides, he was not 
seriously ill at all." 

" I don't know about that, sir, and I can't stay to talk 
about it : I must get the doctor at once." 

" No, no," said Lloyd, rousing himself; " I will do that. 
Where is the nearest ? Tell me, and do you go back to 
him." 

" First turn to the right, second door on the left," said 
Mrs. Bush, with unusual promptitude. " Dr. Muxky's ; he 
isn't long established, but does a good business." 

Gilbert Lloyd hurried away ; and Mrs. Bush returned to 
the house, thinking only when she had reached it, that she 
had forgotten to mention his wife's arrival to Gilbert 
Lloyd. 



When Lloyd entered the sick man's room, bringing with 
him Dr. Muxky, as that sandy-haired and yftuthful general 
practitioner was called by his not numerous clients, he saw 
a, female figure bending over the bed. It was not that of 
Mrs. Bush ; he had passed her loitering on the stairs — 
ostensibly that she might conduct the gentlemen to the 
scene of action, really because she dared not re-enter the 
room unsupported by a medical presence. The figure did 
not change its attitude as they entered, and Dr. Muxky 
approached the patient with a professional gliding step. 
He was followed by Lloyd ; who, however, stopped abruptly 
on the opposite side of the bed when he met the full 
unshrinking gaze of his wife's bright, clear, threatening 
eyes. 

" May I trouble you to stand aside for a moment ? " said 



24 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



Dr. Muxky courteously to Gertrude, who instantly moved 
but only a very little way, and again stood quite still and 
quite silent. Dr. Muxky stooped over his patient, but only 
for a few seconds. Then he looked up at Gilbert Lloyd, and 
said hastily, — 

" I have been called in too late, sir; I'm afraid your friend 
is dead." 

" Yes," said Gertrude, quietly, as if the doctor had spoken 
to her ; " he is dead. He has been dead some minutes." 

Gilbert Lloyd looked at her, but did not speak; the 
doctor looked from one to the other, but said nothing. Then 
Gertrude stretched out her hand and laid her fingers heavily 
upon the dead man's eyelids, and kept them there for 
several moments amid the silence. In a little while she 
steadily withdrew her hand, and without a word left the 
room. 

On the drawing-room landing she found Mrs. Bush. That 
practised and cautious landlady, mindful of the possible 
prejudice of her permanent lodgers against serious illness 
and probable death in their immediate vicinity, raised her 
finger as a signal that a low tone of voice would be advis- 
able. 

" Go upstairs ; the doctor wants you," said Gertrude, and 
passed quickly down to the parlour. A few moments more, 
and she had put on her bonnet and shawl, opened the hall- 
door without noise, closed it softly, and was walking swiftly 
down the street towards the shore. 



CHAPTER II. 

PONDEKED. 

TPHE sandy-haired slim young man, whose name was 
X Muxky, who was a member of the Royal College of 
Surgeons of England, and who amongst the few poor people 
of Brighton that knew of his existence enjoyed the brevet- 
rank of doctor, found himself in anything but a pleasant 
position. The man to see whom he had been called in was 
dead ; there was no doubt of that. No pulsation in the 
heart, dropped jaw, fixed eyes — all the usual appearances — 



PONDERED. '25 

ay, and rather more than the usual appearances : " What we 
professionally call the rigor mortis — the stiffness immediately 
succeeding death, my dear sir, is in this case very peculiarly 
developed." Mr. Muxky, in the course of his attendance at 
St. Bartholomew's Hospital, had seen many death-beds, had 
inspected in an easy and pleasant manner many dead bodies; 
but he had never seen one which had presented such an 
extraordinary aspect of rigidity so immediately after death. 
He approached the bed once more, turned back the sheet 
which Mrs. Bush had drawn over the face, and, kneeling by 
the side of the bed, passed his hand over and under the 
body. As he moved, Gilbert Lloyd moved too, taking up 
his position close behind him, and watching him narrowly. 
For an instant a deep look of anxiety played across Gilbert 
Lloyd's face, the lines round the mouth deepened and 
darkened, the brows came down over the sunken eyes, and 
the under jaw, relaxing, lost its aspect of determination ; 
but as Mr. Muxky turned from the bed and addressed him, 
Lloyd's glance was perfectly steady, and his face expressed 
no emotions stronger than those which under the circum- 
stances every man would be expected to feel, and no man 
would care to hide. 

" This is rather an odd experience, my dear sir," said Mr. 
Muxky ; " called in to see our poor friend, who has, as it 
were, slipped his cable before my arrival. Our poor friend, 
now, was a — well — man of the world as you are — you will 
understand what I mean — our poor friend was a — free 
liver." 

Yes, Gilbert Lloyd thought that he was a man who ate 
and drank heartily, and never stinted himself in any- 
thing. 

" Nev-er stinted himself in anything !" repeated Mr. 
Muxky, who had by this time added many years to his per- 
sonal appearance, and entirely prevented the bystanders 
from gleaning any expression from his eyes, by the assumption 
of a pair of glasses of neutral tint — " nev-er stinted himself 
in anything ! Ah, a great deal may be ascribed to that, my 
dear sir ; a great deal may be ascribed to that ! " 

" Yes," said Gilbert Lloyd carelessly ; " if a man will take 
as much lobster-salad and Strasbourg pie as he can eat, with 
as much champagne and moselle as he can carry ; and if, in 
spite of the remonstrances of his friends, he will sit without 



26 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

his hat on the top of a drag, with the August sun beating 
down upon him " 

" Did he do that, my dear sir ? — did he do that 1 " 

" He did, indeed ! Several of us implored him to be 
careful ; but you might as well have spoken to the wind as 
to him, poor dear fellow. We told him that he'd probably 
have a — a — what do you call it 1 " 

" General derangement of the system ? Flux of blood 
to the " 

" No, no ; sunstroke — that's what I mean ; sunstroke. 
Perigal, who was out in India in the Punjaub business — he 
was on our drag when poor Harvey was taken bad, and he 
said it was sunstroke all over — regular case." 

" Did he, indeed ? " said Mr. Muxky. " Well, that's odd, 
very odd ! From the symptoms you have described, I ima- 
gined that it must have been something of the kind : — 
brain overdone, system overtaxed. In this railway age, 
Mr. Lloyd, we live such desperately rapid lives, concen- 
trate so much mental energy and bodily fibre into a few 
years, that " 

"I'm glad you're satisfied, Mr. Muxky," said Gilbert 
Lloyd, pulling out his purse. " It's a satisfaction in these 
melancholy cases to know that everything has been done, 
and that there was no chance of saving the poor fellow, 
even if " 

" I scarcely say that, Mr. Lloyd. A little blood-letting 
might, if taken at the exact moment — in tempore veni ; 
you recollect the old quotation — might have been of some 
use. There's a prejudice just now against the use of the 

lancet, I know ; but still For me 1 " taking a crisp 

bank-note which Lloyd handed to him. " O, thank you, 
thank you ! This is far too munifi " 

" The labourer, Mr. Muxky, is worthy of his hire," said 
Gilbert Lloyd ; " and it is our fault — not yours — that you 
were summoned too late. But, as you just now remarked, 
it is impossible in these cases to know what is impending, 
or how nigh may be the danger. I was very much struck 
by that remark. And now good afternoon, Mr. Muxky. I 
must go out and find my poor wife, who is quite upset by 
this unfortunate affair. Good afternoon — not another word 
of thanks, I beg ; and any of the usual formalities in these 



TONDERED. 27 

matters — I don't know what they are — but certificates, and 
that kind of thing, we may look to you to settle ! Thanks 
again. Good day." 

And Gilbert Lloyd shook hands with the overwhelmed 
Mr. Muxky, whose eyes gleamed even through the neutral- 
tinted glasses, and whose pale face burst into a pleased per- 
spiration, as he crumpled the crisp bank-note into his waist- 
coat-pocket, and followed Mrs. Bush down the stairs. 

" A sensible man, that, Mrs. Bush," said he when he 
reached the first landing; "a very sensible, kind-hearted, 
clear-headed man. Under all the circumstances, you're very 
lucky in having had such a man in the house. No fuss, no 
preposterous excitement — everything quite proper, but 
thoroughly business-like." 

" You're right, Dr. Muxky," responded the sympathetic 
landlady. " When I saw as clear as clear that that poor 
creature was going the way of all flesh — which is grass, 
and also dust and ashes — and knew I'd got those Miss 
Twillows in the drawing-rooms, you might have knocked 
me down with a feather. Nervous is nothing to what the 
Miss Twillows is ; and coming regular from Peckham for 
the sea-bathing now five years, regular as the month of July 
comes round ; and giving no trouble, through bringing their 
own maid ; and stopping on all September, — without per- 
ambulators in the passage, and children's boots, which after 
being filled with sand will not take the polish, — their leaving 
would be a loss to me which " 

Mrs. Bush stopped suddenly in her harangue, as the 
drawing-room door, by which they were standing, was cau- 
tiously opened, and an elderly female head was slowly 
protruded. It was a large head, and yet it had what is 
called a " skimpy " character. What little hair there was 
on it was of a mixed pepper-and-salt kind of colour, and 
gathered into two large roll-curls, one on either side of the 
head, in front, and into a thin wisp behind. In this wisp 
was stuck a comb, pendent from which was a little bit of 
black lace. The features could not be defined, as the lower 
part of the face was entirely hidden in a handkerchief held 
to the nose, exhaling pungent vinegar. Mr. Muxky stared 
a little at this apparition — stared more when the head 
wagged and the mouth opened, and the word " Doctor ? ' 



28 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

was uttered in interrogative accent. Then Mr. Muxky, 
beginning to perceive how the land lay, said in his softest 
tones : " Yes, my dear madam, I am the doctor." 

The head dropped again, and again the lips opened. 
" Fever 1 " was what they said this time, while a skinny 
hand at the end of a skinny arm made itself manifest, 
pointing upwards. 

" Fever," repeated Mr. Muxky, " that has removed our 
poor friend upstairs 1 — nothing of the sort, my dear madam, 
I can assure you ; nothing but " 

" Not smallpox 1 — don't say it's smallpox ! " This from 
another voice, the owner of which was in the background, 
unseen. " 0, Hannah, does he say it's smallpox 1 " 

" He don't say anything of the kind, Miss Twillow," in- 
terposed Mrs. Bush ; " knowing that in the midst of life 
we are in death, specially sitting in hot suns without our 
hats on the tops of stage-coaches, and to say nothing of too 
much to drink. You've never been inconvenienced since 
you've been in this house, have you, m'm ? and you won't 
be now. It isn't my fault, I'm sure ; nor yet Dr. Muxky's ; 
and, considering all things, not a great put-out, though 
doubtless upsetting to the nerves." 

" That's just the point, Mrs. Bush," said Mr. Muxky, who 
was not going to lose the chance ; " nothing to fear ; but 
yet, some temperaments so constituted that, like the ^Eolian 
harp, the — the slightest breath of fright has an effect on 
them. If my poor services now could be of any use " 

" Yes, now do," said Mrs. Bush, " Miss Twillow, Miss 
Hannah ; just see the doctor for a minute. You've had a 
shock, I'll allow, and it's natural you should be upset ; but 
the doctor will put you right in a minute." 

Thus Mr. Muxky secured two new patients ; not a bad 
day's work. 

"While these matters were in progress in the house 
Gertrude had left, and the subdued bustle inevitably atten- 
dant upon the necessary care and the unavoidable household 
disorganization which succeeds a death, even when the dead 
is only a stranger in the house where the solution of the 
enigma has come to him, — she was sitting on the shore 
close by the foamy edge of the waves, and thinking. 

Gertrude had gone down to the shore across the broad 
road, now crowded with people out for the bright summer 



PONDERED. 29 

afternoon ; -with carriages and gigs, with vehicles of the 
highest elegance, and with such as had no pretence to any- 
thing but convenience ; with pedestrians of every class, 
assembled with all sorts of objects, hygiene and flirtation 
being predominant. She had gone away down the slope, 
and on to the strip of pebbly sand ; and where one of the 
wooden barriers marked out a measured space, she sat down 
on a seaweed-flecked heap of shingle, and began to think. 
The long line of the horizon, where the blue sea met the 
blue sky, parted only by a narrow verge of light, broken 
white clouds, was before her ; between it and her absent, 
troubled eyes, lay the wide expanse of sea. A short space 
only parted her from the moving, restless, talking crowd 
upon the Esplanade ; but her sense of solitude was complete. 
The ridge of the slope hid her ; the soft plash of the sea, 
with its monotonous recurrence, soothed her ear, and 
deadened the sound of wheels and the murmur of voices ; 
her eyes met only the great waters, across which sometimes 
a boat glided, on which sometimes a sea-bird's wing rested 
for an instant. As Gertrude sat there, with her arms ex- 
tended and her hands tightly clasped together, with her 
head bent forward and her eyes fixed upon the distant line 
of the sea and sky, her thoughts obeyed her will, and formed 
themselves, consecutive, complete, and purposeful. The 
girl — for she was but a girl, after all — had brought thither 
a heavy trouble ; to be taken out, looked at, weighed, 
examined. She had brought there a half-developed purpose, 
to be thought into maturity, to be fully fashioned and re- 
solved upon. Before she should leave that place she would 
have done these things ; and when she should leave it, a 
new phase in her life would have begun. Ineffable sadness 
was in her brown eyes — grief and dread, which did not seem 
newly born there, but constant dwellers, only that to-day 
they had been suddenly awakened once again from tem- 
porary repose. If there had been any one to see Gertrude, 
as she sat by the edge of the waves, and to note her face, 
with its concentrated and yet varying expression, that 
person, if an acute observer, would have been struck by the 
contrast between the eyes and the mouth. The character 
of the look in the eyes shifted and varied ; there was fear 
in it, grief, weariness, disgust, sometimes even horror ; and 
these expressions passed like the lights and shadows over a. 



o 



30 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

fair landscape. But the mouth did not vaiy ; firm, closely 
shut, — so compressed that its tightness produced a white 
line above the red of the upper lip, — it expressed power 
and resolution, when that long process of thinking — too 
purposeful to be called a reverie — commenced, and it ex- 
pressed power and resolution when at length Gertrude rose. 
Hours had passed over her unheeded, as she sat by the sea ; 
the afternoon had lengthened into the evening ; the crowd 
of loungers had dispersed. She had heard, but not heeded, 
the church-bells ringing for evening service ; and now 
silence was all around her, and the red flush of sunset was 
upon the sky and the sea. When she had risen from her 
seat of shingle, Gertrude stood for some minutes and looked 
along the shore, where her solitary figure seemed doubly 
lonely. Then she turned and scanned the long line of the 
houses and the road, on which a few scattered human beings 
only were moving. A strange reluctance to move possessed 
her; but at length she shook it off, and with a slight 
shudder turned her back upon the sea, fast becoming grey 
as the sun went down, and walked steadily, though not 
quickly, back to the lodging-house where she had left her 
husband. 

As she drew near to the house, Gertrude looked up at 
the window of the room in which she had seen Harvey 
Gore die. It was open ; but the green blind was closely 
drawn. Looking upwards at the window, she did not per- 
ceive till she was close upon it that the house-door was 
slightly ajar ; but as she raised her hand to the knocker, 
the door was opened widely by Mrs. Bush, and Gertrude, 
going into the passage, found Gilbert Lloyd there. The 
sudden sight of him caused her to start for an instant, but 
not perceptibly ; and Mrs. Bush immediately addressed her 
with voluble questions and regrets. 

"Where had she been all this time 1 She had gone out 
without her lunch, and had she had nothing to eat i Plow 
uneasy she and Mr. Lloyd had been about her ! (Mr. 
Lloyd bad evidently secured by this time a high place in 
the good graces of Mrs. Bush.) Mr. Lloyd had been 
waiting and watching for her ever so long ; and she, Mrs. 
Bush, as soon as ever the poor dear dead gentleman upstairs 
had been " put tidy," which was her practical mode of ex- 
pressing the performance of the toilet of the dead, had been 



PONDERED. 31 

also watching and waiting for Mrs. Lloyd's i-eappearance. 
Suspicion and scanty civility had given place in the manner 
of the worthy landlady — who was infinitely satisfied with 
the proper sense of what was due to her in the unfortunate 
position of affairs exhibited by Gilbert Lloyd — to anxiety for 
the comfort of the young lady whom she had so unwillingly 
received. 

During the colloquy between Mrs. Bush and Gertrude, 
Gilbert Lloyd had been standing, awkwardly enough, in 
the passage, but without speaking. But when a pause 
came, and Gertrude approached the parlour-door, he 
spoke. 

" "Where have you been, Gertude ? " he asked, sternly. 

His wife stood still and answered, but did not look at 
him. 

" I have been sitting by the sea-shore." 

" You must be cold and hungry, I should think." 

" I am neither." 

" I suppose you know you cannot remain here 1 " 

« Why % " 

He seemed a little at a loss for an answer ; but replied t 
after a moment's pause, — 

" A death in the house is sufficient reason. Mrs. Bush 
can't attend to a lady-lodger under the circumstances. You 
can go back to town in the morning ; for to-night I shall 
take you to the nearest hotel." 

" Very well." 

She never looked at him ; not by the most fleeting flicker 
of an eyelash did she address her face to him, though he 
looked steadily at her, trying to compel her glance. She 
went into the parlour, through the folding-door into the 
bedroom, collected the few articles which she had taken 
out of her travelling-bag, and returned carrying it in her 
hand. Evidently all arrangements had been made by 
Gilbert Lloyd with Mrs. Bush : no more was said. 
Gertrude took a friendly leave of the landlady, and went 
out of the house, walking silently by her husband's side. 
He did not offer her his arm, and not a word was spoken 
between them until the door of a private sitting-room at 
the George had closed behind them. Then he turned 
savagely round upon her, and said, in a thick low voice, 
" The meaning of this foolery 1 " 



32 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

This time she looked at him — looked him straight in the 
face with the utmost calmness. There was not the least 
flush of colour in her pale face, not the slightest trembling 
of her lips, not the smallest flutter of her hands — by which 
in woman agitation is so often betrayed — as she said 
calmly, " You are polite, but mysterious. And I suppose 
the journey, or something, has rendered me a little dull. I 
don't quite follow you. What ' foolery ' are you pleased to 
ask the meaning of ? " 

She had the best of it so far. She stood erect, facing the 
light, her head thrown back, her arm outstretched, with 
nothing of bravado, but with a good deal of earnestness in 
her manner and air. Gilbert Lloyd's head was sunk on his 
breast, his brow was knit over his frowning eyes, his lips 
tightly set, and his under-jaw was clenched and rigid. His 
hands were plunged into his pockets, and he had commenced 
to pace the room ; but at his wife's question he stopped, 
and said, " What foolery ! Why, the foolery of your con- 
duct in those lodgings this day ; the foolery of your coming 
down, in the first place, when you weren't wanted, and of 
your conduct since you came." 

" I came," said Gertrude, in a perfectly calm voice, and 
still looking him steadily in the face, " in pursuance of the 
arrangement between us. It was your whim, when last I 
saw you, to wish for my company here ; and you settled the 
time at which I wa3 to come. My ' foolery ' so far consists 
in having exactly obeyed you." 

" Your obedience is very charming," said Gilbert Lloyd 
with a sneer ; " and no doubt I should have enjoyed your 
company as much as I generally do. Few men are blessed 
with wives embodying all the cardinal virtues. But cir- 
cumstances have changed since we made that arrangement. 
I couldn't tell this man was going to die, I suppose 1 " 

She had purposely turned her face away when her 
husband began to sneer at her, and was pretending to 
occupy herself with opening her travelling-bag ; but as 
these words fell upon her ear, she drew herself °to her full 
height, and again looking steadily at him, said, " I suppose 
not." 

"You suppose not ! Why, of course not ! By heavens, 
it's enough to drive a man to desperation to be tied for life 
to a white-faced cat like this, who stands opposite him 



PONDERED. 33 

repeating his words, and shows no more interest in him 

than By Jove," he exclaimed, shaking his clenched fist 

at her, " I feel as if I could knock the life out of you ! " 

To have been struck by him would have been no novel 
experience on Gertrude's part. More than once in these 
paroxysms of temper he had seized her roughly by the arm 
or shoulder, leaving the livid imprint of his hand on her 
delicate flesh ; and she fully expected that he would strike 
her now. But as he spoke he had been hastily pacing the 
room ; and it was not until he stopped to menace her that 
he looked in her face, and saw there an expression such as 
he had never seen before. Anger, terror, misery, obstinacy, 
contempt— all these passions he had often seen mirrored in 
Gertrude's features ; but never the aversion, the horror, the 
loathing which now appeared there. The look seemed to 
paralyze him, for in it he divined the feelings of which it 
was the reflex. His extended arm dropped by his side, and 
his whole manner changed, as he said, " There ! enough of 
that ! It was hard enough for me to have the trouble of 
poor Gore's illness to fight against, without anything else ; 
and when you did come, Gertrude, I thought — well " — 
pulling himself together, as it were, he bent forward 
towards her. and, with a soft look in his eyes and an inex- 
pressible tenderness in his voice, whispered, " I thought you 
might have brought a word of cheer and comfort and — and 
love — to your poor old Gilbert, who " 

While speaking he gradually drew near to hex*, and 
advanced his hand until it touched her waist. Gertrude 
no sooner felt his clasp than, with a short sharp cry as if of 
bodily pain, she withdrew herself from it. 

" Don't touch me ! " she exclaimed, in a voice half 
choked with sobs. Her calmness was gone, and her whole 
system was quivering with emotion. " For Heaven's sake 
keep off ! Never lay your touch on me, in kindness or in 
cruelty, again, or you will find that the ' white-faced cat ' 
has claws, and can use them." 

Gilbert Lloyd stared for au instant in mute astonishment 
at his wife, who stood confronting him, her eyes sparkling 
like glowing coals in the midst of her pale face, her hair 
pushed back off her forehead, her hands tightly clasped 
behind her head. He was cowed by this sudden trans- 
formation, by this first act of overt rebellion on Gertrude's 

D 



34 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

part, and thought it best to temporize. So he said, "Why, 
Gertrude, darling, my little lady, what's all " 

" No more of that, Gilbert," she interrupted, calming 
herself by a strong effort, unlocking her hands, and again 
confronting him. " Those pet names are things of the 
past now — of the past which must be to us even more dead, 
and more forgotten than it is to most people." 

The solemnity of her tone and of her look angered him,, 
and he said shortly, "Don't preach, please. Spare your- 
self that." 

" I am not preaching, Gilbert, and I am not — as you 
sometimes tell me — acting ; but I have something to say 
which you must hear." 

" Must, eh ? Well, come down off your stilts and 
say it." 

" Gilbert Lloyd," said Gertrude, " this day you and I 
part for ever. Don't interrupt me," she said, as he made a 
hasty gesture ; " hear me out. I knew that this would be 
the end of our hasty and ill-advised marriage ; but I did 
not think the end would come so soon. It has come now, 
and no power on earth would induce me to alter my 
determination." 

" 0, that's it, is it 1 " said Lloyd, after a minute's silence. 
" And this is my wife, if you please ; this is the young lady 
who promised to love, honour, and obey ! This woman, 
who now coolly talks about our parting for ever, is one 
who has hung about my neck a thousand times and " 

" No," exclaimed Gertrude, interrupting him, " no ! 
This " (touching herself lightly on the breast) " is your 
wife indeed — is the woman who bears your name and has 
borne your caprices ; but " (again touching herself) " this is 
not the woman that left London this morning I wish to 
heaven I were — I wish to heaven I were ! " 

She uttered these last words in a low plaintive tone 
that was almost a wail, and covered her face with her 
hands. 

" This is mere foolery and nonsense," said Lloyd, after a 
momentary pause. " You wish you were, indeed ! If 
you're not the same woman, what the devil has changed 
you I 

" Do you want to know 1 " she asked suddenly, looking 
up at him, — not eagerly, boldly, or defiantly, but with the 



PONDERED. 35 

expression of horror and loathing which he had previously 
noticed. 

" No ! " he replied with an oath ; " why should I waste 
my time listening to your string of querulous complaints ? 
You want a separation, do you ? Well, I am not disposed 
to say ' no ' to any reasonable request ; but if I agree to 
this, mind, it's not to be the usual business." 

Finding he paused, Gertrude said, " I scarcely understand 

you." 

" Well, I mean that ' parting for ever ' does not mean 
coming together again next month, to live in a fool's 
paradise for a week, and then hate each other worse than 
ever. If we part, we part for ever, which means that we 
never meet again on earth — or rather, that we begin life 
afresh, with the recollection of the last few months com- 
pletely expunged. We have neither of us any relations to 
worry us with attempts at reconciliation ; not half a dozen 
men know of the fact of my having been married, and 
none of them have ever seen you. So that on both sides we 
start entirely free. It is not very likely that we shall ever 
run across each other's path in the future ; but if we do, 
we meet as entire strangers, and the fact of our having 
been anything to one another must never be brought 
forward to prejudice any scheme in which either of us may 
be engaged. Do you follow me ? " 

" Perfectly." 

" And does what I propose meet your views ? " 

" Entirely." 

" That's right. Curious," said Lloyd, with a short, sharp 
laugh, — "curious that just as we are about to part, we 
should begin to agree. However, you're right, I suppose ; 
we could not hit it ; we were always having tremendous 
rows, and now each of us can go our own way ; and," he 
added, under his breath, as he glanced at Gertrude's ex- 
pressive face and trim figure, " I don't think I've had the 
worst of the bargain." 

After a moment's silence, Lloyd said, " What do you 
propose to do 1 " 

" I have no schemes at present," Gertrude replied ; "and 
if I had, you have no right to ask about them." 

" You've not taken long to shake off your harness, by 
Jove ! " said Lloyd, bitterly. " However, whatever you do 

d 2 



36 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

hereafter, you must have something to start with now." 
He took out a pocket-book, and counted from it some bank- 
notes. " I've not done so badly as people thought," said 
he ; " and here are two hundred pounds, all my available 
capital. You shall have half of this — here it is." He 
pushed a roll of notes towards her. She took it without a 
word, and placed it in her travelling-bag. "You'll sleep 
here to-night, I suppose ; and had better clear out of this 
place early to-morrow. I shall have to stay until after the 
funeral. And now, I suppose, that's about all ? " 

" All," said Gertrude, taking up her travelling-bag and 
moving towards the door. 

"Won't you — won't you say 'good-bye'?" said Lloyd, 
putting out his hand as she passed him. 

Gertrude made him no reply ; but she gathered her dress 
tightly round her, as though to preserve it from his touch ; 
and on glancing at her face Gilbert Lloyd saw there the 
same look of horror and loathing which had paralyzed him 
even in the midst of his furious rage. 



CHAPTEE III. 

PROPOSED. 

WHEN Gertrude left her husband's presence, without 
giving him any clue to her intentions for the future, 
something like bewilderment fell upon her for a little. It 
was not grief — no such sentiment had any place or share in 
the tumult of her mind. The arrangement which had been 
made, the agreement that had been come to, was a distinct 
and positive relief to her. It would have been a relief 
even before the late occurrences which had brought things 
to a crisis, and Gertrude neither denied nor lost sight of 
that fact. It had become a positive necessity, not to be 
avoided, not to be deferred ; and it was done. When the 
door closed behind her, as she trod the narrow passage 
which divided the sitting-room in which their last inter- 
view had taken place from the bedroom in which she was 

to pass the night, Gertrude knew that she was relieved 

was even in a dull, hardly-ascertained sort of way, »lad • 



PROPOSED. 37 

and yet she was bewildered. There was more horror in 
her mind than sorrow. For the hope and happiness of her 
own life, thus early blighted in their first bloom, she had 
no sentimental pity ; she could not afford to think about 
them, even if she had had time, which she had not. The 
circumstances of her life had aided the natural disposition 
and habits of her mind, and brought her to look steadily at 
facts rather than feelings, at results and actions rather than 
at influences and illusions of the past. As a matter of fact, 
her life in all its great meanings was past, and the best 
thing she could do was to banish it from memory, to dismiss 
it from contemplation as completely and as rapidly as 
possible. 

Gertrude had been for many hours without food, and had 
undergone much and various mental agitation. She was 
conscious that the bewilderment which pervaded her mind 
was in a great degree referable to physical exhaustion, and 
she resolved to postpone thought and action until the 
morning. She rang a bell, ordered a slight meal to be 
served to her in her room, and having eaten and drank, 
went to bed so completely overpowered by the fatigue and 
restrained excitement of the day that she fell asleep imme- 
diately. The calm summer night, unvisited by darkness, 
passed over, and witnessed only her unbroken rest — a grand 
privilege of her youth. 

Gilbert Lloyd remained for some time in the room where 
Gertrude had left him, walking to and fro before the 
windows, lost in thought. The passion and excitement of 
the day had not been without their effect on him also, and 
certain components mingled with them in his case which 
had no existence in the sum of Gertrude's suffering — doubt, 
dread, suspense, uncertainty. What did Gertrude mean 1 
What still remained hidden, after that terrible interview in 
which so much had been revealed 1 What was still un- 
explained, after all that dreary and hopeless explanation 1 
These questions, which he could not answer, which it was 
his best hope might never be answered, troubled Gilbert 
Lloyd sorely. That the agreement which had been made 
between him and his wife was highly satisfactory to him he 
knew as clearly as Gertrude knew it ; but in the way in which, 
it had been brought about, in the manner of its decision, 
the advantage had been Gertrude's. Gilbert Lloyd did not 



38 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



like that, though this parting was so utter and so final that 
he might well have dismissed all such considerations, and 
turned his back upon the past, as he had proposed to do in 
reality, and as he did not entertain a doubt that Gertrude 
would do in downright real earnest, never bestowing so 
much thought or memory on him again as to produce the 
smallest practical effect upon her future life. He knew 
that he had achieved a great success that day ; that this 
final separation between himself and Gertrude was an event 
in every way desirable, and which he would have hailed 
with satisfaction at any period since he had wearied of her 
and begun to regard marriage as the very worst and 
stupidest of all mistakes ; — a mental process which had 
commenced surprisingly soon after he had made the blunder. 
But, somehow, Gilbert Lloyd did not taste the flavour of 
success. It was not sufficiently unmingled for the palate of 
a man of despotic self-will, and the ultra intolerance of com- 
plete callousness and scoundrelism. At length he checked 
himself in his monotonous walk, and muttering, " Yes, I'll 
go back ; it's safest," he rang the bell. 

His summons was not obeyed with remarkable alacrity — 
waiters and chambermaids had had a hard time of it at the 
George of late ; but a waiter did at length present himself. 
By this time the news of a " sporting gent's " death in the 
immediate vicinity had reached the George ; and the man 
looked at Lloyd with the irrational curiosity invariably 
excited by the sight of any one who has been recently in 
close contact with crime, horror, or grief. 

" I rang to tell you I shall send my traps down from 
Pavilion Place, but I shall not sleep here," said Lloyd ; " I 
shall come up to breakfast in the morning, though." 

" v ery good, sir," said the man ; and Gilbert Lloyd took 
up his hat and walked out. He called for a minute at 
Pavilion Place, and spoke a few words to Mrs. Bush, who 
gave him a latch-key, then went away again; and the 
morning hours were well on when he let himself quietly 
into the lodging-house, and threw himself on the bed in the 
back parlour. 

The window of the "two-pair front" was open, and the 
fresh breeze, sea-scented, blew in through the aperture, and 
faintly stirred the drapery of the bed. Presently the' sun 
rose ; and before long a bright ray streamed through the 



PKOPOSED. 39 

green blind, and a wavering bar of light shimmered fantas- 
tically across the sheet which decently veiled the dead 
man's face. 

Gertrude Lloyd went down to the railway-station early 
on the following morning, and before Gilbert had made his 
appearance at the George. She had not passed unnoticed 
at that hostelry. In the first place, she was too young and 
handsome to pass unnoticed anywhere during a sojourn of 
sufficient duration to give people time to look at her, if so 
disposed. In the second place, there was something odd 
about her. She was evidently the wife of the gentleman 
who had brought her to the hotel, and had then changed, 
his mind about staying, and gone away so abruptly. Here 
she was now going away without seeing him, calling for her 
bill, and paying it "quite independent like," as a chamber- 
maid, with a very proper reverence for masculine superiority, 
remarked ; setting off alone, perfectly cool and comfortable. 
" There's been a tiff, that's it, and more's the pity," was the 
conclusion arrived at by the waiter and the chambermaid, 
who agreed that Gertrude was very pretty, and " uncommon 
young, to be sure, to be so very off-handed." 

Mrs. Bush, too, did not omit to inquire for the handsome 
young lady who had got "the better" of her so very 
decidedly. " She's off to London, first train in the morning," 
said Lloyd. " There was no good in her staying here for all 
this sad affair. / can't avoid it, of course ] but she is 
better out of it all." After which explanation, Mrs. Bush 
thought, sagaciously, that leaving one's husband in an un- 
pleasant position, and getting safe out of it one's self, was 
not a very affectionate proceeding ; and that Mrs. Lloyd, if 
she really was very fond of her husband, at all events did 
not make the fact obtrusively evident. 

But Gertrude Lloyd had not gone to London. Her mind 
had been actively at work from an early hour in the morn- 
ing; and, strengthened and refreshed by rest, she had been 
able to employ it to good purpose. Her first resolve was 
not to go to the lodgings she and her husband had occupied 
in London any more. She had no wish to embarrass his 
proceedings in any way. She desired to carry out their 
contract in both letter and spirit, and to disappear at once 
and completely from his life. So she left a note for Gilbert 



40 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

Lloyd at the George, containing the words, " Please have 
everything belonging to me sent to Mrs. Bloxam's," and 
then took her way to the station, and her place in an early 
train for Worthing. Gertrude was alone in the carriage, 
and she profited by the circumstance to tear up and throw 
out of window a letter or two, and sundry bills on which 
her name, " Mrs. Lloyd," appeared. Her initials only were 
stamped on her travelling-bag. The letters disposed of, she 
drew off her wedding-ring, and, without an instant's hesita- 
tion for sentimental regret, dropped it on to the rails. Then 
she sat still, and looked out at the landscape. Her face was 
quite calm now, but the traces of past agitation were on it. 
The first person to whom Gertrude Lloyd should speak to- 
day would not be struck by the contrast between her 
assured, self-possessed manner and her extreme youth, as 
Mrs. Bush had been impressed by it only yesterday. 

Arrived at Worthing, Gertrude had no difficulty in 
securing quiet and respectable lodgings, away from the sea, 
and not far out of the town. It was in a small house, form- 
ing one of a row of small houses, with climbing roses about 
the windows, and common but fragrant flowers in a liliputian 
strip of garden-plot on either side of the door. On the 
opposite side of the road was a row of gardens corresponding 
to the houses, remarkable for numerous arbours of curiously 
small dimensions, and great variety and ingenuity of con- 
struction ; likewise for the profusion and luxuriance with 
which they grew scarlet-runners and nasturtiums. In one 
of these houses, Gertrude engaged a sunny parlour and bed- 
room for a week certain ; and then, having explained to 
the woman of the house that she was a governess, and was 
about to enter on a new situation, but was not certain when 
she would be required to proceed to the house of her 
employers, she set herself to the carrying out of the plans 
she had formed that morning, and, as a first step, wrote the 
following letter : — 



•*o 



" 7, Warwick Place, Worthing, 
" Monday. 

" My dear Mrs. Bloxam, — You will probably be very 
much surprised to receive a letter from me, and I am not 
less astonished to find myself writing to you. Though you 
were kind to me after a fashion, while I lived at the Vale 



PROPOSED. 41 

House, the circumstances under which I quitted your pro- 
tection, and the events which have since occurred, were of 
a nature to render me unwilling to open up any communi- 
cation with you, and to make it extremely improbable that 
I should ever be called on to do so. I retain some pleasant 
and grateful recollections of you and of my childhood, when 
I was, on the whole, happy ; and I remember in particular, 
and with especial gratitude, that you put down, with the 
high hand of authority, the very natural inclination of the 
other girls to ridicule and oppress me, because I had no 
relations to give me presents, take me out, and beg half- 
holidays for all the pupils on the strength of their visits, and 
because my holidays were always passed at school. You 
will wonder what I am coming to, and why, if it be anything 
important, I should recall these seemingly trivial things by 
the way ; but I do so in order to remind myself, and to gain 
courage in so doing, of the only protection and friendship I 
have ever received from a woman, — now, when I need protec- 
tion and friendship very, very much, and am about to ask 
you to extend them to me. 

" When I left you as I did, and married the man who had 
induced me to deceive you as I did (do not sujjipose I want 
to extenuate my own share in the matter, or throw the 
blame on him because I mention him thus), you told me, in 
the only letter you ever addressed to me, that I had made a 
bad mistake, and should inevitably find it out sooner or 
later. Tou were distinctly and unerringly right. I did 
make a bad mistake — a worse mistake than any one but my- 
self can ever know or gues3 ; and I have found it out 
sooner instead of later. I have known it for a long time ; 
but now circumstances have arisen which oblige me to act 
on my knowledge, and a separation has taken place between 
my husband and myself. Not a separation in the ordinary 
sense, with the tie repudiated and yet retained ; but a 
separation by which each has undertaken to cease to exist 
for the other. I have no relations, so far as I know. If I 
have any, you and you alone are aware of the fact, and 
know who they are. I have no prejudices to offend, no 
position to forfeit. Gilbert Lloyd and I have parted never 
to meet again, as we both hope ; never, under any circum- 
stances, to recognize or interfere with one another. I have 
no friends, except I may venture to call you a friend ; ;ind 



42 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

to you alone can I now turn for assistance. I would say for 
advice, but that the time for that is past. There is nothing 
to be done now but to act upon the resolution which has 
been taken. 

"My plan for the future is this: I have .£100, and a 
■voice whose quality you know, and which has improved since 
I was at the "Vale House ; so that I know it to be of the 
best kind, and in the best order, for concert-singing at least, 
perhaps ultimately for opera. I intend to become a public 
singer ; but I must have more teaching, and the means of 
living in the mean time ; so that the small sum in my pos- 
session may be expended upon the teaching and training of 
my voice. From many indications, which I perfectly re- 
member, but need not enter into here, I have reason to 
believe that I was a profitable ptipil to you ; that from some 
source unknown to me you received sums of money for my 
maintenance and education of an amount which was very well 
worth having. I do not say this in any way to disparage 
the habitual kindness with which you treated me, and which 
I have always acknowledged gratefully, but because I am 
about to propose a bargain to you, and wish to assure myself 
that I have some grounds for doing so, and for counting 
upon your acquiescence. 

" Will you receive me at the Vale House for one year free 
of charge, in the capacity of a teacher for the junior classes, 
and giving me sufficient time to enable me to take music- 
lessons and practise singing ? If you will do this, and thus 
enable me, if I find my voice fulfils my expectations, to 
earn a livelihood for myself in an independent fashion, I will 
undertake to repay the cost out of my earnings. Possessing, 
as you do, the knowledge, if not of my parentage, at least 
of some person who became voluntarily responsible for my 
support during several years, you may perhaps be able, 
unless I am considered to have sacrificed all claim on my 
unknown connections by my marriage, to procure from 
them a little more assistance for me ; but you must not 
make any attempt to do so if such an attempt should 
involve the revelation of my secret. I presume if any one 
exists whom it concerned, you made known my marriage. 
That circumstance is the last to be known about me ; hence- 
forth Gertrude Lloyd has no more existence than Gertrude 
Keith. 



SETTLED. 43 

"If you should accede to my request, it will be necessary 
for me to know whether any of the girls now under your 
charge were at the "Vale House when I left it, also whether 
you have any servants now likely to recognize me. I shall 
await your answer with much anxiety. Should it be un- 
favourable, I must endeavour to devise some other method 
of carrying out the fixed purpose of my future life ; and at 
present no possible alternative presents itself to my mind. 
In conclusion, I beg that you will decide quickly. I shall 
be here only one week ; that expired, if you do not answer 
me, or if you answer me unfavourably, I must face the pro- 
blem to which just now I see no solution. Address Miss 
Grace Lambert. — Yours sincerely, 

" Gertrude Lloyd." 



CHAPTER IV 

SETTLED. 

THE "Vale House, Hampstead, was admirably suited in 
point of size and situation for a boarding-school or 
" establishment " for young ladies. It stood in its own 
grounds, which, though not. really extensive, had been made 
the most of, and contrived to look as if there were a great 
deal more of them than there really was ; and it commanded 
an extensive prospect from the upper windows, well elevated 
above the jealous walls which guarded the youth and beauty 
committed to Mrs. Bloxam's charge from contact with the 
outer world. Occasionally, or at least in one instance, as will 
presently appear, the security had not been altogether so 
inviolable as might have been desired; but, on the whole, 
the " establishment " at Vale House maintained and de- 
served a high character, A heavy, square, roomy, red- 
brick mansion, with its windovrs cased in white stone, and a 
coat-of-arms sculptured in the same material, but now nearly 
undecipherable, inserted over the heavy mahogany hali- 
door, the Vale House belonged to a period of architecture 
when contract-building was unknown, when the art of 
" running up " houses was yet undiscovered, and a family 
mansion among the middle-classes meant a house in which 



44 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

fathers and sons and grandsons intended to live and die, un- 
beguiled by " splendid opportunities " into constant migra- 
tions and rapid changes in their style and manner of 
living. 

The Vale House had, however, suffered from the changes 
and innovations of the age ; and the grandson of its last 
hereditary inhabitant now dwelt in splendour in a west-end 
" place," forming an " annexe " to a square of ultra-fashion- 
able pretensions and performances, and looked and spoke as 
though he had never even heard the name of a locality more 
northern or more distant from the centre of civilization than 
the Marble Arch. If the Townleys were oblivious of the 
Vale House, so was the Vale House of them. Except 
among such of the inhabitants of Hampstead as were care- 
ful and religious conservators of tradition, the origin and 
history of the Vale House had been forgotten ; and a 
general notion prevailed that it had always been a school. 
The pupils — with the exception of such as were of a 
romantic turn of mind and given to the association of all 
old houses having plenty of room in them with the Orphan 
of the Forest and the Children of the Abbey — hated the 
place, and believed that it must always have witnessed the 
incarceration of unoffending girlhood. The ancient and 
much-effaced armorial bearings awakened no compassionate 
respect in the minds of these haughty young creatures, but 
rather a lively scorn. " Old Bloxam was only a sea-captain, 
and she was a governess in some old lord's family, and they 
set her up in the school, and she gives herself airs as if she 
was a lady," they would remark, under the influence of irri- 
tation, arising from causes gastronomic or otherwise ; and 
the caricaturing of these armorial bearings was a favourite 
jeu cTesprit among the livelier and cleverer section of Mrs. 
Bloxam's pupils. 

The school at the Vale House had been of late years a 
very prosperous undertaking. Mrs. Bloxam's connection 
was among the rich and respectable mercantile communitv, 
not the shopkeeping, be it known : she observed with the 
utmost strictness the distinction between wholesale and 
retail trades, and especially affected the learned professions. 
In Gertrude's time, two daughters of a Scotch baronet had 
effectively represented the real aristocracy ; but they were 
" finished " long since, and had returned to the land of their 



SETTLED. 45 

birth, having learned to braid their sandy locks, and to tone 
down their hereditary freckles, and equally hereditary 
accents, to the admiration of all Glen Houlaghan. The real 
aristocracy was quite unrepresented at the Vale House, but 
the " British-merchant " element flourished there. Mrs. 
Bloxam had prospered of late years, and was now in circum- 
stances which permitted her to contemplate retiring from 
the labours of school-keeping, — in which she had never pre- 
tended to herself to find a congenial occupation, — as a 
not impossible, indeed not even a very remote, contingency. 

Mrs. Bloxam was not at all like the conventional school- 
mistress ; she as little resembled the Pinkerton as the 
Monflathers type ; and, despite the contemptuous comments 
of her pupils, was very ladylike indeed, both in appearance 
and manners. She was a tall slight woman, very fair of 
hair and complexion, with blue eyes, which were a little hard 
in expression, and a little shifty ; with an inexpressive 
mouth, a graceful figure, and a good deal of character and 
decision in her voice, gestures, and movements. She had 
purchased the Vale House from its former j^roprietor, a 
distant relative of her own, and, like herself, a school- 
mistress, on highly advantageous terms, when she was a 
new-made widow, and a very young woman ; and now she 
hoped, after a year or two, to dispose of it on terms by no 
means so advantageous to the purchaser. But this hope 
Mrs. Bloxam had not spoken of to any one. She was of 
silent and secretive temperament, and liked to make up her 
mind completely, and in every detail, to any plan of action 
which she contemplated before making it known to any 
friend or acquaintance. Her man of business was Mrs. 
Bloxam's sole confidant, and even he knew no more of her 
affairs than was indispensable to their safe and profitable con- 
duct. 

Mr. Dexter would have been as ignorant as any mere ac- 
quaintanceof Mrs. Bloxam's — as anyof the young girls asleep 
in the white beds, standing in long ranges in the " lofty and 
well- ventilated dormitories" which formed so important a 
feature in the prospectus that eloquently set forth the 
advantages of the Vale House " establishment " — of the 
nature of the contents of a bundle of letters which Mrs. 
Bloxam set herself to peruse, late on the same evening on 
which Gertrude Lloyd's letter reached her well-shaped 



46 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

hands. Only one individual in the world besides Mrs. 
Bloxam knew that the letters which she was now engaged 
in reading had ever been written ; and their writer would 
probably have been surprised — as they did not contain any 
guarantees for the payment of moDey — had he known that 
they were still in existence. 

Gertrude's letter had reached Mrs. Bloxam just at the 
hour at which the concluding ceremonial of the school-day 
routine was about to be performed. She laid it aside until 
prayers and the formal leave-taking for the night insisted 
upon at the Vale House as essential to the due inculcation 
of good breeding had been gone through ; and then, in the 
welcome retirement and solitude of her own sitting-room, 
seated before her own particular bureau, and with her own 
particular supper in tempting perspective, Mrs. Bloxam 
read, not without sympathy mingling with her astonishment, 
the letter of her quondam pupil. 

Mrs. Bloxam read the letter once and laid it down, and 
thought very profoundly for some minutes. Then she 
took it up and read it again, and once more fell into a fit of 
musing. The bureau before which she had seated herself 
had a number of small drawers at the side. One of these 
Mrs. Bloxam opened, and selected from among its neatly- 
arranged contents a packet, tied with green ribbon and 

docketed, "Lord S , from 185- to 186-." The parcel 

contained twenty letters, and Mrs. Bloxam read them all 
through. The task did not occupy much time ; the 
writing was large and clear, her sight was strong and quick. 
When she had read the letters, she replaced them in the 
order which she had temporarily disturbed, retied the packet,, 
and locked it away in the drawer whence she had taken it. 
Then she arranged a sheet of paper on the blotting-pad 
before her, took up a pen, and began to write with a rapid 
hand what was evidently intended to be a lon<* letter. 

But in the middle of the third page Mrs. Bloxam changed 
her mind. "Safer not, better not," she muttered to 
herself ; " the written letter remains. "Witness these ; " 
and she inclined her pen-handle towards the drawer in 
which she had just replaced the packet of letters ■ " time 
will show whether she had better know, or not know." 

Then Mrs. Bloxam tore the sheet, the third pao-e of 
which she had begun to write on, into fragments sufficiently 



SETTLED. 47 

minute to defy the curiosity and the ingenuity of the most 
prying and ingenious of housemaids, and replaced it by 
another, on which she wrote the following words : — ■ 

" The Vale House, Hampstead, 
"Tuesday night. 

" My dear Gertrude, — I have your letter. I accede 
to your request, and will make arrangements in reference 
to the proposal which you have submitted to me. None of 
the girls now here have any recollection of you. There are 
several younger members of the families whose older girls 
were here ; but your change of name prevents that being 
of any consequence. The servants were all changed at the 
Easter Term. Let me know when it will suit you to come 
here ; and believe me yours sincerely, 

"Elinor Bloxam." 

"When she had read this brief note over, addressed it to 
Miss Grace Lambert, and placed it in the appointed spot 
for all letters to be despatched by the morning post, Mrs. 
Bloxam sat down to her solitary supper with a well- 
satisfied expression of countenance. 

It was nearly eleven years since Gertrude Keith, a 
handsome, intelligent, and self-willed child of eight years 
old, had been confided to the care of Mrs. Bloxam and 
the advantages, educational and otherwise, of the Vale 
House. The letters which Mrs. Bloxam had read, that 
summer night, formed the greater part of all the correspon- 
dence which had been addressed to her by the individual 
who had placed the child under her protection, and whose 
confidence Mrs. Bloxam had won, and to a certain extent 
undeniably deserved. It had been stipulated that Gertrude 
Keith was to be kept in ignorance of her parentage, and of 
the circumstances under which she had been placed in Mrs. 
Bloxam's establishment ; and this condition the school- 
mistress had conscientiously observed. Gertrude knew 
nothing of her own origin. She was believed by her com- 
panions, and she believed herself, to be an orphan girl, 
without any living relatives. 

Gertrude Keith was the natural daughter of Lord 
Sandilands, a nobleman whose wild youth had given place 
to a correct and irreproachable middle age, which stage of 



48 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

life he had now passed, and was beginning the downward 
descent. He had placed the child under the care of Mrs. 
Bloxam, who had been formerly a governess in the family 
of his sister, Lady Marchmont, and who retained the con- 
fidence and regard of her former employers, after she had 
made the adventurous and unsuccessful experiment of 
matrimony. Certain circumstances connected with the 
little girl's birth and the early death of her ill-starred 
mother made Lord Sandilands shrink from seeing her, with 
strange and strong aversion ; and one of the conditions to 
which he had required Mrs. Bloxam's consent and adherence 
was, that his name was never to be spoken to the child, and 
that, except in the event of her illness or death, he was to 
be spared all communications respecting her, except at 
certain stated intervals. These conditions had been scrupu- 
lously observed ; and Gertrude's childhood had been as 
happy as any childhood passed under such exceptional con- 
ditions could be. She was a handsome, healthy, brave, 
independent-spirited child, who did not give much trouble, 
and who held her own against the envy, hatred, malice, and 
-all uncharitableness of that world in miniature — a girls' 
boarding-school. As for Mrs. Bloxam, she liked the hand- 
some, sturdy child ; and she liked the stylish, graceful girl, 
■who developed herself so rapidly from that promising child- 
hood. Then Gertrude was not a troublesome, while she 
was a very lucrative, pupil ; and there was an agreeable 
certainty about the very liberal payments made on her 
account by Lord Sandilands, and an equally agreeable un- 
certainty about the period of the girl's removal from the 
Vale House, which formed an exception to the rule in 
general cases ; and Mrs. Bloxam highly appreciated both 
these advantages. A portion of the correspondence which 
Mrs. Bloxam had read on the evening on which she had 
received Gertrude's letter referred to the time when she 
should have attained to womanhood, and her schooldays 
should be over. It was Lord Sandilands' wish that the 
arrangement made for her in her childhood should continue ; 
that Mrs. Bloxam should act as her protectress ; that the 
girl should remain with her, until she should feel indisposed 
to stay at the Yale House any longer, or should decide 
upon some manner of life for herself. " In any of these 
cases," said Gertrude's xmknown father in one of his letters, 



SETTLED. 49 

"on your communicating the facts to me, I will. make the 
best arrangement for Gertrude within my power." 

It was not very long after this had been written, though 
much before the time at which either her father or Mrs. 
Bloxam had contemplated the probability of any change in 
Gertrude's life, or of the girl's taking her destiny into her own 
hands, that an accident made her acquainted with Gilbert 
Lloyd. She had not shared any of the early romance and 
follies of her companions : the " young gentlemen " of Dr. 
Waggle's " establishment " had had no charm, singly or 
collectively, for her ; the doctor, the chemist, the music 
and drawing masters, even the Italian signor, who made 
singing-lessons a delight, and was so fascinating, though he 
used his hair-brush sparingly, and his nail-brush not at all — 
each and all were perfectly without attraction or danger for 
the young girl, who seemed to ignore or despise all the 
petty flirtations and manceuverings of her schoolfellows. 

Of and for not one of the young girls under her care had 
Mrs. Bloxam less fear or anxiety. Gertrude was proud and 
stately, and though tall for her seventeen years, and firm 
as well as graceful of outline, and though she had made 
fair progress with her education, and in her musical studies 
was notably in the van, there was something childlike about 
her still, something which kept Mrs. Bloxam in a happy 
condition of unsuspecting tranquillity. 

But all Gertrude Keith's childlike peace and passionless 
calm vanished when she met Gilbert Lloyd, at a house where 
Mrs. Bloxam was in the habit of visiting during the 
vacations, and whither she brought Gertrude, in order to 
avoid leaving her to the portentous solitude of the Vale 
House, in the absence of her companions. The girl fell in 
love with the young man — who paid her quiet, stealthy, 
underhand attentions — with a suddenness and a vehemence 
which would have alarmed any one who loved her, for the 
future of a woman endowed with so imaginative, sensitive, 
and passionate a nature. All the dormant romance, of 
which no one had suspected the existence in Gertrude's 
nature, whose awakening no one perceived, when the time 
came was aroused into force and action, and the girl was 
transformed. Now was the time at which the instinct, the 
care, the love, the caution of a mother, would have been 
needed to guide, direct, and save Gertrude from her own 



50 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

undisciplined fancy, from her own untaught impulses. But 
Gertrude had no such aid extended to her. Mrs. Bloxam, 
a good woman in her way, and of more than average intelli- 
gence, had no feelings towards the girl which even bordered 
on the maternal ; and the habitual authority of the school- 
mistress was naturally in some degree abrogated by the 
fact that it was vacation time. She was not of a very con- 
fiding or unsuspicious disposition ; but she had, uncon- 
sciously to herself, to deal in Gilbert Lloyd with one who 
knew well how to lull suspicion, and he in his turn found 
an apt pupil in Gertrude. They met again and again ; 
the girl's beauty, freshness, and daring had a strong charm 
for a man like Lloyd ; and for the first time since he had 
had to calculate life's chances closely, and to rely upon him- 
self for the indulgences and luxuries which alone made life 
worth having to a man of his temperament, he committed 
the blunder of gratifying feeling at the expense of prudence. 
He did not fall in love with Gertrude quite so precipitately 
or so violently as she fell in love with him, but the second 
meeting did for him what the first had done for her ; and 
in Gilbert Lloyd's case to form a desire was to resolve to 
achieve it, at whatever cost to others, at whatever sacrifice 
of personal honour, provided it did not entail public dis- 
grace, such gratification might necessitate or involve. 

The vacation enjoyed by the pupils, and not less enjoyed 
by the proprietor, of the Yale House, was within three days 
of its expiration, when a housemaid belonging to the esta- 
blishment reported Miss Gertrude Keith " missing ; " and 
the search and anxiety consequent on the intelligence were 
terminated by a letter from the fugitive, informing Mrs. 
Bloxam that she had been married that morning to Gilbert 
Lloyd by special licence, and was then about to start for a 
short continental excursion. 

Mrs. Bloxam was very much shocked, and very much 
annoyed, in the first place that the event should have hap- 
pened at all ; in the second, that Gilbert Lloyd, of whom 
she knew something, and cordially disapproved what she 
did know, should be the hero of an affair certain to bring 
her into discredit with Lord Sandilands, and likely, if she 
did not contrive to hide it very skilfully, to bring her school 
into discredit with the public. She had no doubt as to the 
veracity of Gertrude's story, no doubt that Lloyd had really 



SETTLED. 51 

married her — a copy of the certificate of the marriage was 
enclosed in her letter ; but she bitterly regretted her own 
blindness and negligence, and, to do her justice, felt not a 
little for the girl's probable fate. 

Mrs. Bloxam rapidly perceived the advantage to be 
derived from the circumstance that the untoward event 
of Gertrude's elopement had taken place during the vaca- 
tion. She summoned all the servants, informed them that 
Miss Keith had left the Vale House under certain un- 
pleasant circumstances which it was not necessary to ex- 
plain ; that any indiscreet reference to the circumstance 
made to the other pupils on the reassembling of the school 
would be visited by condign punishment in the forfeiture 
of the offender's place ; and then dismissed them, to as- 
semble downstairs in their own domain and learn all the 
particulars from the housemaid, who was in Gertrude's 
confidence, and had been liberally bribed by Gilbert Lloyd 
to facilitate and connive at all the preliminary meetings 
which had resulted in the elopement. 

To this proceeding succeeded a period of reflection on the 
part of Mrs. Bloxam. Should she inform Lord Sandilands 
of the events that had taken place ? Should she tell him 
how much sooner than she had calculated upon, Gertrude 
had taken the decision of her fate into her own hands ? 
Should she tell him that the time to which she had looked 
forward as an eventuality, which might come about in a 
couple of years, had already taken place, and that now was 
the opportunity for fulfilling the intentions which he had 
continuously, if vaguely, expressed in his letters to her ? 
Mrs. Bloxam debated this question with herself, and self- 
interest loudly and persistently advised her to silence. 
Lord Sandilands had never seen the girl, had never even 
hinted at seeing her, had indeed distinctly disclaimed any 
intention of ever seeing her. Nothing could be more im- 
probable than that he should find out what had occurred. It 
she should continue to apply to his solicitor for the money 
which he was authorized to pay her at certain intervals, no 
suspicion of any change in the state of affairs could arise. And 
the money would be very welcome to her. By resorting to 
the simple expedient of holding her tongue, she might avoid 
scandal, avoid doing herself the injury which she must 
necessarily inflict upon her school by the admission of an 

e2 



52 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

elopement having taken place from within its walls, and 
secure a sum of money which would be both useful and 
agreeable. To be sure, the day of reckoning must come, 
but not yet ; and if ever she should have it in her power to 
do any service or kindness to the poor misguided girl, who 
would certainly inevitably come, or she (Mrs. Bloxam) was 
much mistaken in Gilbert Lloyd, to need service and kind- 
ness before much time should have gone over her, she 
pledged herself to herself to show her all the kindness in 
her power, unreservedly and heartily. Thus did Mrs. 
Bloxam make the devil's bargain with herself; and very 
successfully did she pursue the line of conduct which she 
had determined to follow, from the period of Gertrude 
Keith's elopement to that evening on which she had re- 
ceived the no longer deluded girl's letter, two years and a 
half later. 

With the fatal facility which results from impunity, Mrs. 
Bloxam had almost ceased to remember Gertrude, and had 
quite ceased to feel uneasiness regarding the concealment 
she had practised towards Lord Sandilands, and the ap- 
propriation of the sum of money which he paid to her 
yearly. But with the perusal of Gertrude's letter the 
subject again arose in her mind, and, as was Mrs. Bloxam's 
habit, she faced it steadily and considered it maturely. 
Gertrude's proposition was not an entirely pleasing one. 
There was a certain responsibility attaching to assuming the 
charge of a young woman so strangely situated ; and the 
present acceptation of the trust might involve Mrs. Bloxam 
in difficulties and dilemmas to which she was by no means 
blind or insensible. But, on the other hand, she saw in 
Gertrude's return a perfect security against the divulgement 
of her decidedly unpleasant secret. Should Lord Sandilands 
now make any inquiry about Gertrude, she should ex- 
perience no difficulty in satisfying him or any representative 
he might send. Even should the change of name become 
known — a contingency which a little well-timed manceu- 
vering might prevent— Mrs. Bloxam could afford to trust 
to her own ingenuity to find a reason for that proceeding 
which should satisfy all querists. Gertrude's own interest 
and safety were now concerned in preserving the secret of 
her elopement, her marriage, and the duration of her absence 
from the Yale House ; while the offer of her services as 



SETTLED. it J 

teacher to the junior classes was sufficiently valuable to 
leave 31 is. Bloxam still a gainer to the full extent of the 
annual stipend, even when Gertrude's maintenance and 
needful expenses should be taken into account — a calcula- 
tion which Mrs. Bloxam made very accurately and minutely, 
and which was very much in her line. 

The result of the cogitations to which Mrs. Bloxam gave 
herself up after she had read Gertrude's letter has already 
appeared. On the following day she received from Mrs. 
Lloyd a few brief lines of acknowledgment and thanks ; 
and the Saturday of the week which had begun with the 
death of Harvey Gore and the final parting between 
Gilbert Lloyd and his young wife witnessed the installation 
of a new inmate, holding an anomalous position — partly 
parlour-boarder and partly pupil-teacher — at the Vale 
House. This new inmate was known to her companions 
and pupils, in short to all concerned, as Miss Grace 
Lambert. 



END OF THE PROLOGUE. 



5i THE ROOK AHEAD. 



|)00ll % $\XSt, 



CHAPTER I. 

ROWLEY COURT. 

THE traveller of thirty years ago, whom pleasure or 
business took through the heart of Gloucestershire, 
and who had the satisfaction of enjoying the box-seat of 
the admirably-appointed mail-coach which ran through that 
district, — if he had an eye for the picturesque aud a proper 
appreciation of the beauties of nature, exhibiting themselves 
in the freshest turf, the oldest trees, the loveliest natural 
landscape-gardening combination of grassy upland, wooded 
knoll, and silver stream, — seldom refrained from inquiring 
the name of the owner of the property which was skirted 
by the well-kept road along which they were bowling, and 
was invariably informed by the coachman that all belonged 
" to the Challoners, of whom you've doubtless heerd ; the 
Challoners of Rowley Court." By his phrase, " of whom 
you've doubtless heerd," the coachman expressed literally 
what he meant. He and his compeers, born and bred in 
the county, were so impressed with the seignorial dignities 
of the Challoners of Rowley Court, that they ignored the 
possibility of the position of the family being unknown 
throughout the length and breadth of the land. That they 
were not what they had been was indeed admitted, that 
the grand old estate had somewhat diminished, that the 
family revenues had decreased, that the present members of 
it were to a certain extent impoverished, that the hand of 
poverty was one of the many objectionable hands which 
had an unpleasant grip upon the old Squire, — all these were 

facts which were tacitly admitted in privileged regions 

such as the servants'-hall at the Court, or the snugo-ery at 
the Challoners' Arras — but which were never hinted at to 
passing straDgers. So jealous, indeed, of the honour of the- 



ROWLEY COURT. 55 

family were its retainers — among whom the mail-driver was 
to be classed, as he was doubtless connected with the 
tenantry by family or marriage — that if " the box " 
ventured to comment on the evident want of attention to 
the property, manifested in broken hedges, unmended thatch, 
in undrained fen or unreclaimed common, he received but 
a short answer, conveying an intimation that they knew 
pretty well what was right down in those parts, the 
Challoners did ; at all events, as well as most cockneys : the 
biting sarcasm conveyed in this retort having generally 
the effect of closing the conversation, and reducing the fee 
given to the driver at the journey's end to one-half the sum 
originally intended. 

There are no mail-coaches now, and the traveller by rail 
has no chance of getting a glimpse of Rowley Court, save 
a momentary one in the short interval between a cutting 
and a tunnel which are on the extreme border of the park. 
The Court itself stands towards the centre of the park, on 
low ground encircled by wooded hills, towards which, in the 
good old times, avenues of stately oak, elm, and lime trees 
extended in long vistas. But under the dire pressure of ne- 
cessity the woodman's axe has been frequently at work 
lately in these " cool colonnades," and the avenues are con- 
sequently much shorn of their fair proportions. The house 
is a big incongruous mass of two distinct styles of 
architecture — a grafting of Inigo Jones's plain facade and 
Corinthian pillars on a red-brick Elizabethan foundation, 
with projecting mullioned windows, octagonal turrets, 
quaintly-carved cornices, and ornamental doorways. Round 
the house runs a broad stone terrace bounded by a low 
balustrade, and flanked at each of the corners by a large 
stone vase, which, in the time of prosperity, had contained 
choice flowers varying with the season, but which were 
now full of cracks and fissures, and were overgrown with 
creeping weeds and common parasites. The very stones of 
the terrace were chipped, moss-edged, and grass-fringed ; 
the black-faced old clock in the stable-turret had lost one 
of its hands, while several of its gilt numerals had become 
effaced by time and tempest ; the vane above it had only 
two points of the compass remaining for the brass fox, 
whose bushy tail had gone in the universal wreck, to point 
at ; the pump in the stable-yard was dry ; the trough in 



a 



56 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

front of it warped and blistered ; a piece of dirty oilcloth 
had been roughly nailed over the kennel, in front of which 
the big old mastiff lay blinking in the sunshine ; and a 
couple of cart-horses, a pair of superannuated carriage- 
horses, the Squire's old roan cob, and " the pony " (a strong, 
rough, undersized, Welsh-bred brute, with untiring energy 
and no mouth), were the sole tenants of the stables which 
had once been occupied by the best-bred hacks and hunters 
of the county. 

They were bad times now for the Challoners of Rowley 
Court — bad times enough, Heaven knew ; but they had 
been great people, and that was some consolation for Mark 
Challoner, the old Squire, as he stiffly returned the bow of 
Sir Thomas Walbrook, ex- Lord Mayor of London, carpet- 
maker, and millionaire, who had recently built an Italian 
villa and laid out an Italian garden on a three-hundred acre 
" lot " which he had purchased from the Challoner estate. 
They had been the great lords of all that district. Queen 
Elizabeth had lodged for some time at Rowley Court on 
one of her progresses ; and Charles I. and Henrietta Maria 
had slept there, the royal pair finding " all the highways 
strewed with roses and all manner of sweet flowers," as 
was recorded in a worm-eaten parchment manuscript kept 
among the archives in the old oak-chest in the library. 
There was no sign then of the evil days in store — evil days 
which began in 1643, when Colonel Sands' troopers pillaged 
the Court, and sent off five waggons loaded with spoil to 
London. 

It is the custom of the Challoners to say that then began 
that decadence which has continued for ever since ; and in 
truth, though there have been many vicissitudes of fortune 
undergone by the old family, the tendency has been for 
ever downward. The final blow to their fortunes was 
dealt by Mark Challoner's immediate predecessor, his 
brother Howard, who was one of the ornaments of the 
Prince Regent's court, and who gambled and drank and 
diced and drabbed with the very finest of those fine o-entle- 
men. It was in his time that the axe was laid to the root 
of the tree ; that Sir Thomas Walbrook's father, the old 
carpet-maker, made the first money advances which re- 
sulted in his ultimate purchase on easy terms of the three 
hundred acres ; and that ultimate ruin began decidedly to 



ROWLEY COUKT. 57 

establish and proclaim itself at Rowley Court. When 
providence removed Howard Challoner from this world by 
a timely attack of gout in the stomach, long after his 
beloved king and patron had been gathered to his fathers, 
it was felt that there was every chance of a beneficial 
change in the family fortunes. The godless old bachelor 
was succeeded by his brother Mark, then a clear-headed, 
energetic man in the prime of life, a widower with two re- 
markably promising boys — the elder a frank, free-hearted, 
jovial fellow, fond of country sports, a good shot, a bold 
rider, " a downright Englishman," as the tenantry delighted 
to call him ; the younger a retiring, shy lad, wanting in the 
attributes of popularity, but said to be wondrous clever 
'• with his head," and to know more than people double his 
age, which in itself was something bordering on the 
miraculous to the simple Gloucestershire folk. And, for a 
time, all went very well. Mark Challoner was his own 
steward, and almost his own bailiff ; at all events, he allowed 
no one on the property to be more thoroughly master of its 
details than he. Without any undue amount of niggardli- 
ness he devised and carried out unsparing retrenchments ; 
thriftless tenants, after warning, were got rid of, and ener- 
getic men introduced in their places j a better style of 
farming was suggested, and all who adopted it were helped 
by their landlord. The estate improved so greatly and so 
rapidly that vacant farms were largely competed for, and 
rents were rising, when suddenly Mark Challoner withdrew 
himself from the life into which he had plunged with such 
eagerness, and in which he had succeeded so well, and 
became a confirmed recluse, a querulous, moody, silent man, 
loving solitude, hating companionship, shutting out from 
him all human interest. 

A sudden change this, and one which did not happen 
without exciting remarks from all the little world round 
Rowley Court, both high and low. The Walbrooks and 
their set (for during the few later years there had been 
frequent irruptions of the plutocracy into the old county fami- 
lies, and the Walbrooks wer.e now the shining centre of a 
circle of people with almost as much money and as little 
breeding as themselves) — the Walbrooks and their set shook 
their heads and shrugged their shoulders, and secretly re- 
joiced that the old man from whom they never received 



58 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

anything but the sternest courtesy, and who so pertina- 
ciously repelled all attempts at familiar intercourse from 
them, had at last come upon the evil days in store for him, 
and would no longer twit them by his aristocratic presence 
and frigid behaviour. The more humble classes — the old 
tenantry, who had been rejoicing at the better turn which 
things on the estate had undoubtedly taken, and who were 
looking forward to a long career of good management under 
the reign of Mark Challoner and his sons — were wofully dis- 
appointed at the change, and expressed their disappointment 
loudly amongst themselves, while taking due care that it 
should never reach the master's ear. No one, however, 
either among the neighbours or the dependents, seemed to 
notice that the change in Mark Challoner's life — that his 
fading from the hearty English squire into the premature 
old man, that his abnegating the exercise of his tastes and 
pleasures, and giving up everything in which he had hitherto 
felt the keenest interest — was contemporaneous with the 
departure of his younger son, Geoffrey, from the paternal 
roof. In that act there was nothing to create surprise : it 
had always been known that Master Geoffrey's talents were 
destined to find exercise in the great arena of London, and 
now that he was eighteen years of age, it was natural 
that he should wish to bring those talents into play ; and 
though nothing had been said in or out of the house about 
his going', until one morning when he told the coachman 
to bring round the dog-cart and to come with him to the 
station, there was no expression of surprise on the part of 
any of the household — beings to whom the expression of 
anything they might feel was of the rarest occurrence. The 
old butler, indeed, a relic of the past, who had been Howard 
Challoner's body-servant in his later years, and who was 
almost superannuated, remarked that the Squire sent 
for his eldest son immediately after his youngest son's de- 
parture ; that the two were closeted together for full two 
hours (a most unusual thing at Rowley Court, where, in 
general, all matters were discussed before the servants, 
or, indeed, before any one that might be present) ; and that 
" Master Miles " came out with pallid cheeks and red eyes, 
and in a state which the narrator described as one of 
" flustration." 

Seven years had passed since Geoffrey Challoner's depar- 



ROWLEY COURT. 5& 

ture, — seven years, during which his name had never been 
mentioned by his father or his brother ; seven years, during 
which the old man, wrapped in the reserve, the silence, and 
the moodiness which had become his second nature, had 
been gradually but surely breaking in health, and wending 
his way towards the trysting-place where the Shadow, 
cloaked from head to foot, was in waiting for him. That 
meeting was very close at hand just now. So thought the 
servants, as from the ivy-covered windows of the office they 
peered occasionally at their master, propped up by pillows 
in his bath-chair, which had been wheeled into a corner of 
the stone terrace where the light spring sunshine fell fullest ; 
so thought Dr. Barford, the brightest, cheeriest, rosiest little 
medico, on whom all within the Cotswold district pinned their 
faith ungrudgingly, and who had just sent his dark green 
gig, drawn by that flea-bitten grey mare, which was known 
within a circuit of fifty miles round, to the stables, and 
who approached the invalid with a brisk step and an in- 
quiring, pleasant smile. 

" Sitting in the sunshine," said the Doctor aloud (having 
previously said, sotto voce, " Hem ! — hem ! much changed, 
by George ! ") — " sitting in the sunshine, my dear old friend ! 
And quite right too : 

The sunshine, broken in the rill, 
Though turned astray, is sunshine still, 

as somebody says. Well, and how do we feel to-day 1 " 

" Badly enough, Doctor ; badly enough ! " replied the 
Squire, in a low thick voice. " I'm running down very fast, 

and there's very little more sunshine for me " here an 

attack of coughing interrupted him for a moment ; " so I'm 
making the most of it." 

" O, you mustn't say that," said Dr. Barford cheerily. 
" While there's life there's hope, you know ; and you've 
gone through some baddish bouts since we've known each 
other." 

" None so bad as this," said Mark Challoner. '■' Your 
skill, under Providence, has kept me alive hitherto ; but 
though you're as skilful as ever, and as kind — God bless you 
for it ! — you've not got Providence working with you now. 
I'm doomed, and I know it. What's more, I don't repine, 



£0 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

only I want to make the most of the time that's left me ; and, 
above all, I want to see Miles again." 

" Miles 1 0, ay ! He's staying in town, is he not ? " 
" Yes, with my old friend Sandilands, who loves him as 
if he were his own son. Poor Miles, it's a shame to drag 
him away from his enjoyment to come down to a poor, dull, 
dying old man." 

" You would not hurt his feelings by saying that before 
him," said the Doctor shortly, " and you've no right to say 
it now. Has he been sent for ? " 

" Yes, they telegraphed for him this morning." 
"Well, there can be no harm in that, though I won't 
have you give way to this feeling of lowness that is coming 
over you." 

" Coming over me ! " the old man repeated wearily. 
" Ah, Barford, my dear friend, you know how loDg it is 
since the light died out of my life, and left me the mere 
shell and husk of man that I have been since ; you know, 
Doctor, how long it is ago, though you don't know the cause 
of it." 

" Nor ever sought to know it, Squire ; bear me witness 
of that," said the little Doctor. " It's no part of my busi- 
ness or of my nature to seek confidences ; and though per- 
haps if I had been aware of what was troubling you — and 
at the first I knew perfectly well that animo magis quam 
corpore was the seat of your illness — and though, being un- 
able to ' minister to a mind diseased,' as somebody says, I 
was labouring, as it were, at a disadvantage, — you will do 
me the justice to say that I never for a moment hinted that 
— hum ! you understand 1 " And Dr. Barford, who would 
have given the results of a week's practice to know really 
what had first worked the change in the old man, 
stopped short and looked at him with a confidence-inviting 
glance. 

" Perfectly," said the Squire ; " but it could never have 
been. My secret must die with me ; and when after 
my death the closet is broken open, and people find the 
skeleton in it, they will merely come upon a lot of old 
bones jumbled together, and, not having got the key of the 
puzzle to fit them together, will wonder what I can have 
been afraid of. Why do you stare so earnestly 1 " 

" A skeleton, my dear Squire ! " said the little Doctor, 



ROWLEY COURT. 61 

on tiptoe with eagerness ; " you said a skeleton in a closet, 

and a lot of old bones jumbled together " 

A smile, the first seen for many a day, passed across Mark 
Challoner's wan face as he said, " I was speaking metaphori- 
cally, Barford j that is all. No belated traveller was ever 
robbed and murdered at Rowley Court — in my time at 
least, believe me." 

Dr. Barford laughed a short laugh, and shrugged his 
shoulders as though deprecating a pursuance of the subject, 
but he evidently did not place entire credence on his 
friend's assertion. However, he plunged at once into a 
series of medical questions, and shortly afterwards took his 
leave. As 'he passed the hall-door, which was open, on his 
way to the stables, he saw a neatly-dressed middle-aged 
woman pacing quietly up and down the hall ; and recog- 
nizing her as the nurse from London, who for some time 
past had been in nightly attendance on the old man, he 
beckoned her to him. 

" Coming out to get a little breath of fresh air, nurse 1 "" 
he said pleasantly, as she approached. " You must need it, 
I should think." 

" Well, sir, it is warm and close in the Squire's room now, 
there's no denying ; and what it'll be when the summer 
comes on I often dread to think." 

"No you don't, nurse," said the Doctor, eyeing her 
keenly. " You know better than that, with all the practice- 
and experience you've had. No summer for the Squire, poor 
fellow, this side the grave." 
" You think not, sir ? " 

" I know it, nurse, and so do you, if you only chose to say 
so. However, he's gone down so very rapidly since I was 
here last, and his tone is altogether so very low and 
depressed, that I imagine the end to be very close upon us ; 
so close that I think you had better tell Mr. Miles — the son 
that has been telegraphed for, you know, and who will pro- 
bably be down to-night — that if he has anything special to 
say to his father he had better do so very shortly after his 
arrival. What's that ? " he asked, as a dull sound fell upon 
his ear. 

'• That's the Squire knocking for Barnard to fetch his 
chair, sir ; see, Barnard has heard, and is going to him." 
" O, all right ! Poor old Squire ! poor good old fellow ! 



62 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

Don't foi'get about Mr. Miles, nurse. Good night ; " and 
the little Doctor, casting a kindly look towards the spot 
■where the figure of the old man in the chair loomed hazily 
in the dim distance, hurried away. 

"When Mark Challoner's servant had reached his master's 
chair, and, obedient to the signal he had received, was about 
to wheel it towards the house, he found that the old man 
had changed his intention, and was desirous of remaining 
out on the terrace yet a few minutes. On receiving this 
order, Barnard looked over his shoulder at the nurse, who 
was still standing at the hall-door ; and as she made no sign 
to him to hasten his movements, he concluded that his 
master's wish might be obeyed, and so, after touching his 
hat respectfully, he returned to the genial society of the 
gardener and the stable-lad. And Mark Challoner was 
once more left alone. The fact in its broadest significance 
seemed to become patent to him as he watched the retreat- 
ing figure of his servant, and two tears coursed down 
his wan cheeks. Mark Challoner knew that his last illness 
was then upon him ; for weeks he had felt that he should 
never again shake off the lassitude and weakness so stealthily 
yet so surely creeping over him ; but now, within the last few 
minutes, the conviction had flashed across him that the end 
was close at hand — that he had arrived at the final remnant 
of that originally grand strength and vitality which, slowly 
decaying, had enabled him to make head against disease so long, 
and that he was taking his last look at the fair fields which 
he had inherited, and in the improvement of which he had 
at one time — ah, how long ago ! — found his delight. It 
was this thought that made him dismiss Barnard. The old 
man, with the new-born consciousness of his approaching 
end fresh in him, wanted to gaze once more at his 
diminished possessions ; and for the last time to experience 
the old associations which a contemplation of them never 
failed to revive. There, with the westering sun just gilding 
its topmost branches, was the Home Copse, where he had 
shot his first pheasant, to his old father's loudly-expressed 
delight. Just below it lay the Black Pool, out of which, at 
the risk of his own life, he had pulled Charles Gammock, a 
rosy-faced boy with fair hair — Charles Gammock ! ay, ay, 
they buried him a year ago, and his grandson now holds the 
land. There, bare and attenuated now, but as he first 



ROWLEY COURT. 63 

remembered it young and strong and full of promise, was 
the Regent's Plantation, so called in honour of the illustrious 
personage who, staying for the night with Howard Chal- 
loner, had honoured him by planting the first tree in it. 
Beyond it, Dirck's land, now — and as that thought crossed 
him the Squire's brow became furrowed, and his wan colour 
deepened into a leaden hue, for Dirck was one of the 
moneyed interest, one of the manufacturers who had come 
in Sir Thomas Walbrook's wake, and were bent on the 
acquisition of all the county property which might come 
into the market. Beyond it lay Thurston Gap, the surest 
place for finding a fox in the whole country, old Tom 
Horniblow used to say. Old Tom Horniblow ! Why, 
there had been three or four huntsmen to the Cotswold 
since him : he must have been dead these forty years, 
during which time the Squire had not thought of him a 
dozen times ; and yet then, at that moment, the stout figure 
of the old huntsman mounted on his famous black horse, just 
as he had seen him at the cover-side half a century ago, rose 
before his eyes. This reminiscence turned Mark Challoner's 
thoughts from places to people ; and though his glance still 
rested on the landscape, his mind was busy recalling the 
ghosts of the past. His father, a squire indeed of the old 
type — hearty, boisterous, and hot-headed : it was well — and 
a faint smile dawned on Mark Challoner's cheek as the 
thought crossed his mind — it was as well that his father had 
died before the irruption of the Walbrooks, Dircks, and 
such-like ; it would have been too much for him. His 
brother, the dandy with the high cravat and the buckskin 
breeches and Hessian boots, ridiculed by his country neigh- 
bours, and regarding his estate but as a means to supply his 
town dissipation. His wife — she seemed more dim and 
ghost-like to him than any of the others ; he had known her 
so short a time, so much of his life had been passed since her 
death ; since the gentle little woman, whose wedding-ring he 
had worn on his little finger until it had eaten into the 
flesh, glided out of the world after having given birth to her 
second son. And, with the train of thought awakened by 
the reminiscence of the career of that second son, from his 
birth until the morning of his abrupt departure from the 
ancestral home, surging round him, the old man's head sunk 
upon his breast, a fresh access of feebleness seemed to come 



& 



64 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

over him ; and when the watchful Barnard sallied from hia 
retreat and advanced towards the chair, he found his master 
in a state bordering on collapse, and made the utmost haste 
to get him to his room, and place him imder the professional 
care of the nurse. 

In the course of a very few minutes, however, the Squire, 
aided by stimulants, revived ; and his senses rapidly re- 
turning, he ordered his desk to be brought to the side of the 
bed into which he had been moved, and commenced list- 
lessly sorting the papers therein. They were few and un- 
important ; the old man's illness had not been sudden ; he 
had always been a thoroughly methodical man, and he had 
had plenty of time and opportunity to attend to his corre- 
spondence. Propped up by the pillows, he was leisurely 
looking through the orderly bundles of letters, neatly tied 
together and scrupulously docketed, when the sound of a 
horse's hoofs on the gravel outside, the grating of wheels, the 
barking of the dogs in the stable-yard, and the almost 
simultaneous ringing of the house-bell, gave warning of an 
arrival. Mark Challoner had scarcely time to note these 
various occurrences when the room-door was thrown open, 
and in the next instant the old man's wavering and un- 
steady hands were fast in the grasp of his son Miles. 

A tall man, over six feet in height, with a bright red- 
and-white complexion, large brown eyes, a straight nose too 
big for his face, a large mouth full of sound white teeth, 
with dark brown hair curling crisply at the sides of his head 
and over his poll, with long moustache and flowing brown 
beard, with a strongly-knit but somewhat ungainly figure, 
dressed in a well-made but loosely-fitting grey suit, and with 
large, well-shaped, brown hands, which, after releasing the 
first grip of the Squire's fingers, joined themselves together 
and kept working in tortuous lissom twists : this was Miles 
Challoner. A faint smile, half of pleasure, half of amuse- 
ment — something odd in Miles had always been remarked 
by his father — flitted over the Squire's face, as he said, after 
the first greeting, " You've come in time, Miles : you re- 
ceived the telegram 1 " 

" And started off at once, sir. All I could do to prevent 
his lordship from coming with me — wanted to come im- 
mensely j but I told him I thought he'd better not. Even 



ROWLEY COURT. G5 

such an old friend as he is in the way when one's seedy — 
don't you think I'm right, sir 1 " 

" You're right enough, Miies ; more especially when, as 
in the present case, it's a question of something more than 
' seediness,' as you call it. My time," continued the Squire, 
in tones a little thickened by emotion, — " my time has come, 
my boy. I'm only waiting for you, before, like Hezekiah, 
I should 'turn my face unto the wall.' I have, I hope, 
' set my house in order,' and I know that now ' I shall die, 
and not live ; ' but I wanted to see you before — before I 
go." 

The young man leaned quickly forward and looked 
earnestly in his father's face, as he heard these words ; then 
with a gesture of inquiry elevated his eyebrows at the nurse, 
who was standing just inside the door. Receiving for 
answer an affirmative nod, Miles Challoner's cheek for an 
instant turned as pale as that of the invalid ; but he speedily 
recovered himself, and said in a voice which lacked the 
cheery ring that should have accompanied the words : 
" You're a little down, sir, and that's natural enough, con- 
sidering your illness ; but you'll make head against it now, 
and we shall soon have you about as usual. It was only 
yesterday Lord Sandilands was saying that though he's 
some quarter of a century your junior, he should be very 
sorry to back himself against you at ' anything British,' as 
he expressed it — anything where strength and bottom were 
required." 

The old man smiled again as he said : " Sandilands has 
been a townman for so long that he's lost all condition, and 
has ruined his health for want of air and exercise. But at 
least he lives ; while I — I've vegetated for the last few 
years, and now there's an end even to that." 

" Why didn't you send for me before, sir ? If I'd had 
any idea you thought yourself so ill, I'd have come long 
since." 

" I know that, my dear boy, and that's the very reason 
why I didn't send. Why should I fetch you from your 
friends and your gaiety to potter about an old man's bed- 
side 1 I would not have sent for you even now, save that I 
have that inward feeling which is unmistakable, and which 
tells me that I can't last many days, many hours more, and 

F 



66 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

I wanted, selfishly enough, to have you near me at the last." 
The old man spoke these words with indescribable affection, 
and, half involuntarily as it seemed, threw his arm round his 
son's neck. The big strong frame of the young man shook 
with ill-repressed emotion as he took the thin hand hanging 
round his shoulder, and pressed it reverently to his lips. 
" Father ! " he said ; and as he said it, both the men felt 
how many years had passed since he had chanced to use the 
term " Father ! " 

" True, my boy," said Mark Challoner, quietly, " it is a 
pleasure, though, I fear, a selfish one. ' On some fond breast 
the parting soul relies,' you know, Miles ; and you're all 
that's left to me in the world. Besides, the tie between us 
has been such a happy one ; as long as I can recollect we've 
had no difference,' — we were more like brothers than father 
and son, Miles." 

Miles answered only by a pressure of his father's hand., 
He dared not trust himself to speak, he knew that his 
voice was thick and choked with tears. His father looked' 
at him for an instant, and then said : " Now, boy, go and 
get some dinner. How thoughtless of me to keep you so 
long fasting after your journey ! — Nurse, take Mr. Miles 
away, and see that he is properly attended to. Be as careful 
of him as you are of me, that's all I ask ; " and the old man, 
half-exhausted, sank back on his pillow. 

Miles Challoner left the room with the nurse, and when' 
they were alone, he took the first opportunity of asking 
her real opinion as to his father's state. This she gave him 
frankly and fully, telling him moreover what Dr. Barford 
had said as to the necessity of not delaying anything which 
he might have to say to the Squire. Miles thanked her, 
and then sat down to his cheerless meal. His thoughts were 
preoccupied, and he ate and drank but little, pausing every 
now and then, bestriding the room, reseating himself, and 
leaning his head on his hand with a helpless puzzled air, as 
one to whom the process of thought was unfamiliar. He 
could scarcely realise the fact that the presiding spirit of the 
place, the man whose will had been law ever since he could 
recollect, "the Squire," who, with diminished possessions 
and failing fortunes, had commanded, partly through his 
own style and manner, partly through the prestige attach- 
ing to the family, more respect and esteem than all the 



ROWLEY COURT. 67 

members of the invading calicocracy put together, — he could 
scarcely realise that this rural autocrat's power was ebbing, 
and that he himself lay on his death-bed. On his death- 
bed ! — that was a curious thought : Miles Challoner had 
never attempted to realise the position, and now, when 
vaguely he attempted it, he failed. Only one thing came 
out clearly to him after his attempted examination of the 
subject, and that was that it would be most desirable to be 
at peace with all the world, and that any enmity cherished 
to the last would probably have a most disturbing and 
uncomfortable effect. Pondering all this he returned to the 
sick-room. During his absence the curtains had been 
closed and the night-lamp lighted. The nurse sat nodding 
in a large easy-chair by the bed-side, and the Squire lay in 
a dozing state, half waking now and again as his head slipped 
off the high pillow on which it rested, or when the heaviness 
of his breathing became specially oppressive. Miles seated 
himself on a couch at the foot of the bed, and fatigued by 
his journey, soon fell asleep. He seemed to have been 
unconscious only a few minutes, but in reality had slept 
nearly an hour, when he was awakened by a touch on the 
shoulder, and opening his eyes, saw the nurse standing by 
him. " The Squire's calling for you," she said, adding in a 
whisper, " he's going fast ! " Miles roused himself, and 
crept silently to the head of the bed, where he found his 
father gasping for breath. The Squire's dim eyes recognised 
his son, and between the paroxysms of laboured respiration 
he again threw his arm round Miles's neck and touched the 
bowed forehead with his lips. Then the thoughts that had 
been fermenting in Miles Challoner's heart for so many 
years, and which had caused him such mental disturbance 
that night, at length found vent in words. With his father's 
arm around him, and with his face close to the old man's, 
Miles said," Father ! one word, only one ! You hear and 
understand me 1 " A pressure of the hand on his cheeks — 
O, such a feeble pressure, but still a recognition — answered 
him. " Father, what of Geoffrey 1" A low moan escaped 
the old man's lips ; other sign made he none. " What of 
Geoffrey i " continued Miles, — " years ago you forbade me 
ever to ask what had become of him, why he had left us, 
even to mention his name. I have obeyed you, as you 
know : but now, father, now — " 

f2 



68 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" Never ! " said the old man, in dull, low accents. " Your 
brother Geoffrey is, and must be for ever, dead to you. 
Miles, my boy, my own boy, listen ! Should you ever meet 
him, as you may do, shun him, I urge, I command you ! 
Think of what I say to you now, here, as I am — shun him, 
fly from him, let nothing earthly induce you to know him 
or acknowledge him." 

" But, father, you will surely tell me why " 

The nurse touched Miles on the shoulder as he spoke, 
and pointed to the Squire, whose swooning bad been 
noticed by her observant eyes. "When he recovered himself 
he essayed again to speak, biit his strength failing him he 
laid his hand in his son's, and so peacefully passed away. 



CHAPTER II. 

IN POSSESSION. 

" T) EALLY, hardly sooner than I expected, my dear 
JX sir," said Dr. Barford, when he came to pay his 
accustomed daily visit at Rowley Court, and found his 
occupation gone. "A little accelerated by nervousness 
about your coming home, but very little ; not more than a 
few hours. I quite expected the event ; told the nurse as 
much yesterday, in fact. Ah, well, my dear sir, it is what 
we must all come to. He was a fine old gentleman, a very 
fine old gentleman — has not left many like him in Glouces- 
tershire ; more's the pity ;" and Dr. Barford continued to 
talk on with smooth professional glibness, by no means un- 
conscious of the fact that he was not listened to by Miles 
Challoner with even a show of attention. 

Old Mark Challoner's death was emphatically a " bad 
business " for Dr. Barford, and he said so (to himself) quite 
frankly. The Squire had been a very profitable and by no 
means a troublesome or exacting patient to the worthy 
doctor for a considerable time, and it was not pleasant to 
him to know that the attendance which brought much that 
was agreeable with it, in addition to liberal and regularly- 
paid fees, was at an end. Dr. Barford looked at Miles 
Challoner, and a mild despondency possessed itself of his 



IN POSSESSION. 69 

soul. Miles was a model of health and strength ; his com- 
plexion indicated unconsciousness of the presence of bile in 
his system, and he looked as little like a man troubled, or 
likely to be troubled, with nerves, or fancied ailments of 
any kind, as need be. So Dr. Barford felt his footing at 
Rowley Court was a thing of the past, and mentally bade it 
farewell with a plaintive sigh. He was an honest little 
man, and kind-hearted too, though he did think of the 
event, as we all think of every event in which we are con- 
cerned, from a selfish standpoint ; and he was frankly, 
genuinely sorry for his old friend ; and Miles recognised the 
sincerity of feeling in him, and threw off his absence of 
mind, and shook hands with him over again, thanking him 
for the skill and care that had availed so long, none the less 
warmly that it could avail no longer. 

Miles Challoner's grief for his father was very deep and 
poignant. His nature was acutely sensitive, and he had the 
power of feeling sorrow more intensely than most men, while 
he lacked the faculty for shaking it off, and betaking himself 
to the way of life which had been his before the trouble came 
upon him, which most men possess, and find very useful in a 
world which affords little time and has not much toleration 
for sentiment. Loneliness fell heavily upon him, and the 
society, which in the winter would have been within his 
reach, was not available now. The season was well on in 
London, and most of the people who formed the not very 
extensive neighbourhood of Rowley Court, were in town ; so 
that Miles Challoner was all uncheered by neighbourly kind- 
ness, and his evenings were especially solitary. 

Incidental to his position as sole heir to the diminished 
but still respectable possessions of the Challoners, a great 
deal of business had to be gone through which was particu- 
larly distasteful to Miles. The family lawyer lived in 
London, of course, but his personal services had not been 
needed. Old Mark Challoner had set his house very 
thoroughly in order ; no rents were in arrear, the debts 
were few, and the tenants were orderly and well-behaved. 
They had liked their old landlord well enough, and had 
been somewhat afraid of him. They were not quite sure 
whether they should approve altogether so much of the new 
one. Not that Miles had done anything to offend his 
father's people ; not that he had saliently departed from, or 



70 THE BOCK AHEAD. 

violently transgressed, the traditions of conduct of the 
foregone Challoners. Not that there "was the slightest 
suspicion of milksopism attaching to Miles ; but there was 
an uneasy notion abroad that Miles did not take much 
interest in the old place, that he cared over-much for books 
and "Lunnon," and was rather degenerately ignorant in 
matters appertaining to agriculture. On the whole, though 
there was no disaffection among the Rowley Court tenantry, 
there was not much enthusiasm. Men who would have 
thought it a desperate hardship, an entirely unnatural and 
unheard-of slight indeed, if they had not been, whenever 
they desired it, immediately admitted to an interview with 
old Mark Challoner, were perfectly satisfied to transact 
their business with Mr. Styles, the steward, and displayed 
to the deputy very little curiosity respecting his principal. 
They talked about Miles a little among themselves, won- 
dering whether he would not marry soon, and supposing, in 
rather depreciatory accents, that he would bring a lady 
from " Lunnon." 

" G-lo'ster won't do for him, depend on it," said farmer 
Bewlay to the buxom wife of farmer Oliver ; " he'll be 
having a fine madam, what'll want to be six months among 
the furriners, and save all she can at home the other six. 
Times have changed since the old Squire brought his 
pretty little wife home, and she shook hands with us all in 
the churchyard, after morning prayers, her first Sunday 
here, and told us how she knew us all already, from her 
husband's talk." 

" I don't remember it myself," said farmer Oliver's 
buxom wife ; " but I've heard Tummas talk of it, and how 
she looked up at the old Squire when she said, ' my 
husband,' and smiled just like a summer morning." 

" Ay, indeed she did," assented farmer Bewlay ; " but 
he wasn't the old Squire then, but a brave and good-looking 
gentleman ; and she was a pretty girl was madam, when 
she came to Rowley Court, and pretty up to the time they 
carried her out of it. I helped in that job ; and the Squire 
had nowt but his little boys left." 

"Has anybody heerd tell anything about Master 
Geoffrey 1 " said farmer Oliver's wife, dropping her voice, 
and looking round her, as people look who are talking of 
things which are not, or should not be, generally mentioned. 



IN POSSESSION. 71 

" Does Mr. Styles say anything about him ? Does Mr. 
Styles know where he is 1 " 

" Mr. Styles never mentions him. I don't believe he 
knows any more than we do where he is, or what has 
become of him. A handsome child he was, and a hand- 
some boy, though small and sly and cruel in his ways, and 
no more like the Squire, nor madam neither, than I am. 
You remember Master Geoffrey, surely 1 " 

" O yes, I remember him. How the Squire changed 
after he went away ! He ran away to sea, didn't he 1 " 

" Some folk said so ; but for my part I don't believe it. 
The sea, from all I've ever heard tell of it, ain't an easy life, 
nor a gay life, for the matter o' that ; and wherever Master 
Geoffrey run to — and it's certain sure he ran somewheres--~ 
it wasn't to sea in my opinion. I don't know ; I only have 
my own thoughts about it ; and I ha'n't no means of 
knowin'. Anyhow, he went, and Squire was never the 
same man after ; he were always good, and fond of the 
place, and that he were to the last ; but he never had the 
same smile again, and I never see him talking to the 
children about, or patting them on the head, or doing any- 
thing like what he used." 

The honest dark eyes of Polly Oliver filled with tears. 
" It's all true," she said, " and more than that. When 
our Johnny were lying in the measles, and very near his 
end, the Squire came down one day along with Dr. Barford, 
the physician, you know. He thought there ought to be 
someone beside the doctor to see the child ; and when Dr. 
Barford told us — very kind and feeling like, I must say — 
as the child couldn't be left with us any longer, and I began 
to cry, as was only natural, and made no difference to me 
who was there, Squire or no Squire, he says to me, quiet 
like, but I can hear the words now, ' You won't believe 
me, Mrs. Oliver, and it would be hard to expect you 
should : but there are worse things in life than seeing your 
boy die ;' and then he went away. And when Johnny was 
buried, and I had time to think of anything else, I thought 
of the Squire's words ; and many a time 1 wondered what 
was the meaning that was in them, and knew it must be 
Master Geoffrey's doing somehow, but how I did not know, 
and I suppose no one knows." 

"I don't know about that," said farmer Bewlay ; "it'3 



72 THE ROCK. AHEAD. 

likely as Mr. Miles knows, and Mr. Geoffrey ; but I'm sure 
Styles doesn't ; and outside them two, and the Squire in his 
grave, I daresay nobody in this world knows the rights of 
the story." 

While the people over whom Miles Challoner had come 
to reign in the course of nature thus curiously, but not un- 
kindly or with any lack of feeling, discussed the actualities 
and the probabilities of his life, and raked up the memory 
of that mysterious family secret, strongly suspected to be of 
a calamitous nature, which had long been hidden by the 
impenetrable silence of the Squire, and now lay buried in 
his grave, Miles Challoner himself was much occupied with 
the selfsame subject. The unanswered question which he 
had asked his father in his last moments, — the unsolved 
enigma which had disturbed his mind for years, which 
haunted him now, and made all his life seem unreal, wrong, 
and out of joint, — rose up before him, and engaged his 
thoughts constantly, almost to the exclusion of every other 
matter for reflection except his father's death. The two 
linked themselves together in a strong bond of pain, and 
held him in their withes. This time was a very heavy one 
to the new master of Rowley Court. 

His position was irksome to him. The privileges of proprie- 
torship had no charms for Miles Challoner. He disliked the 
business details in which it involved him ; he shrunk from the 
keenly painful associations it produced; he suffered much from 
his loneliness, — from the loneliness of the Court generally. 
Hitherto, whenever he had been away, he had returned to 
enjoy the tranquillity — tranquillity which, when it was tasted 
as a change, he appreciated very highly, but which as the 
normal state of things wearied him rapidly and excessively. 
He had had much companionship, in and since his boyhood, 
with his father, and the blank left by the old Squire's 
death was indeed complete. Miles Challoner, without 
deserving precisely the appellation of a student, was fond 
of books. He was well-educated, not in a very profound, 
but in a tolerably extensive and various sense ; and his taste 
took a literary turn early in life, which, wholly unshared by 
his father, had been encouraged, fostered, and directed by 
his father's friend, Lord Sandilands. Miles was a man of 
few intimacies. He liked society ; but no one would ever 
have called him sociable : he had much more the air of 



& 



IN POSSESSION. 73 

frequenting general, in order to keep clear of particular, 
society ; and this really was the case. Upon his sensitive 
disposition the family secret, concerning which he had vainly 
questioned his father on his death-bed, weighed heavily. It 
set him apart, and kept him apart from anything like in- 
timacy with young men of his own age, because he felt that 
they too would be always trying to find out that of which 
he himself was ignorant ; and he was not at ease with the 
older people, his father's contemporaries and neighbours, 
because he was not sure whether they had any inkling or 
certain knowledge of the family secret, — whether they were 
all in a conspiracy to keep him in the darkness to which 
his father had condemned him from the period of his 
brother's disappearance. Would Mark Challoner have at 
last confided the truth to his son, had a little more life, a 
little longer time been accorded to him 1 This was the 
vain question which Miles asked himself as he sat moodily 
in the library after his solitary dinner, and watched the sun 
go down in a sea of gold and azure behind the grand old 
woods of Rowley Court, or strolled about the terrace 
listlessly, until the night fell. He could never answer it 
— no one could ever answer it ; but this did not keep Miles 
Challoner from pondering upon it. He felt quite certain 
that there was but one man in the world who could resolve 
his doubts, who could tell him the worst, — might it not 
rather be the best 1 — of this matter, which so sorely per- 
plexed him. That man was Lord Sandilands. If anyone 
knew the truth, it was he ; but whether Miles would ever 
hear it from him depended, as he felt, entirely on the 
terms on which the communication had been made, if it 
had been made at all, by his father to Lord Sandilands. 
That the family lawyer knew nothing of it, Miles felt 
confident ; that Mr. Styles, the steward, was as ignorant 
and as curious, if not as anxious, as himself, he had no 
doubt whatever. There was no one to share, no one to 
aid his mental inquietude. Was his brother living, or 
was he the only — the last — one bearing the old name left ? 
Very shortly after Mark Challoner's funeral had taken 
place, his son had instituted the strictest possible search 
among the documents of all kinds which the house con- 
tained, for any letters or papers bearing upon the mysterious 
occurrences which had changed the aspect of affairs at 



74 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

Rowley Court while the old Squire's sons were yet boys, 
and had shut the younger out from his father's house into 
banishment and oblivion. This search, which Miles had 
conducted quite alone, and had been careful to keep from 
the knowledge of the servants, had been entirely unrewarded 
by success, and had only revealed to Miles a circumstance 
which still further deepened the mystery which tormented 
him, and increased its distressing effect. Not only did there 
not exist among the Squire's papers any memoranda, letters, 
or documents of any description bearing upon, or having 
any reference to, the period at which Geoffrey Challoner had 
left Rowley Court, but none existed in any way, directly or 
indirectly, relating to him. Not a scrap of his writing as 
a child, though Miles found his own little letters to his 
father and mother carefully treasured up, with the correct 
dates noted upon each packet ; and his portrait, as a baby 
of three years old, hung over the mantlepiece of his father's 
bedroom. But there was no likeness of Geoffrey. By an 
effort of memory Miles recalled the taking of that little 
portrait ; he remembered how he had sat upon his father's 
knee, and played with the heavy gold hunting- watch, which 
was his especial delight — it was ticking away still iu a watch- 
stand in the library — while the artist did his work. He 
remembered how his hair had been additionally brushed 
aud curled for the occasion ; and — yes, now he distinctly 
remembered that Geoffrey's portrait had also been painted, 
Where was it ? What had been done with it % 

All the circumstances returned to Miles Challoner's 
memory. The two pictures had hung side by side for years. 
Where was that of the younger son % The Squire had gone 
abroad for a short time, and the brothers had remained at 
Rowley Court under the care of their tutor. They had 
both written regularly to their father ; and Miles found all 
his own letters of that period carefully preserved, arranged 
according to their dates, and indorsed, in his father's hand, 
"My Son's Letters, IS — ." But there was no scrap of 
Geoffrey's writing, there was no trace that he had ever lived, 
to be found within the walls of Rowley Court. Only when 
Miles went into the room which had been the brothers' 
study, only when he entered and looked round the long- 
tmused apartments which had been their nursery and play- 
room, could he realize that there had been two in that 



IN POSSESSION. 10 

stately old house eleven years ago. The room which had 
been his wife's had always been occupied by the Squire after 
her death ; otherwise Miles would have hoped to find some 
little memento of his brother there, — 'there, where he could 
dimly remember— or was it fancy, and not memory ? — a 
gentle pale face turned wistfully towards him when, a very 
little child, he was brought to see the fading mother who 
had been early and mercifully taken away from the evil to 
come. From evil indeed, from terrible and irremediable 
evil Miles Challoner felt it must have been ; else why the 
hopeless banishment, why the impenetrable silence, why the 
apparently complete oblivion ? He brooded upon these 
things in the solitude to which the first few weeks of his 
proprietorship of Rowley Court were devoted, almost to the 
exclusion of every other subject of thought ; and Mr. Styles 
found him singularly inattentive and indifferent to the 
details of his property and his squirearchical duties, as that 
experienced person laid them before him. 

" I can't make him out, and that's the truth," Mr. Styles 
remarked to Dr. Barford one day that the steward met the 
doctor taking his gig by a short cut through a lane which 
formed the boundary of Rowley Court on one side, — " I 
really can't make him out. He cares for nothing ; and it 
is not natural for a young gentleman like him. I was 
talking to him this morning about the likely look of the 
turnips on the Lea Farm, and I'm blessed if he heard one 
word in ten ; and when I asked him a question, just to 
rouse him up like, he said, ' O, ah ! turnips, I think jou 
said ? Of course do as you think best ;' which was alto- 
gether complete nonsense. Of course he's cut up about the 
Squire ; and very natural and right it is he should be so ; 
but it ain't natural and it ain't right to go on as he's going. 
And it's my belief," said Mr. Styles, as he removed his hat, 
took his checked pocket-handkerchief out of the crown, 
gave his face a desponding wipe with it, and replaced it, — 
" it's my belief as he don't know the difference between 
turnips and pine-apples ; and there's a fine promise too, 
such as a man might look to getting some credit along of." 

" That's bad, Styles ; that's bad," said Dr. Barford ; " I 
don't like to hear that my old friend's son is taking to 
moping. I'll call up at the Court and see him to-morrow. 
Good-day, Styles ; " and the doctor drove on, thinking 



76 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

gravely of the changes he had seen at Rowley Court, though 
he knew as little of their origin as everybody else knew. 

On the following day, as Miles Challoner and the doctor 
walked together on the stone terrace, Miles stopped on the 
very spot whence his father had taken his last look at the 
lands which had called him master so long ; and, looking 
full and earnestly at his companion, asked him : " Dr. 
Barford, do you know why my brother left his home ? Do 
you know what that grief was which my father had on his 
mind while he lived, and when he died ? " 

Dr. Barford hesitated for a moment before he replied to 
Miles Challoner' s question, but his hesitation arose from 
surprise, not from uncertainty. There was not the least 
tone of doubt or reserve in his voice and manner as he an- 
swered : " No, Mr. Challoner, your question surprises me 
very much ; but I can assure you most positively I know- 
nothing of the matter." 

" Did my father never mention it to you 1 Never, even at 
the last, when he knew — for he told me so — he was dying ? " 

" Never," said Dr. Barford ; then he added, after a mo- 
mentary pause, "he did say something to me, on the last 
occasion when I had any talk with him, which may have 
had some reference to your brother ; but if it had any, it 
was only incidental, and quite unexplained. He said some- 
thing about his sharing in the common lot — having a skeleton 
in the cupboard ; but that was all. Nothing more explicit 
ever passed his lips to me." 

" Then, or at any time 1 " asked Miles. 

" Then, or at any time, Mr. Challoner," repeated Dr. Bar- 
ford gravely ; and the two fell into silence, which lasted for 
several minutes. 

At length Miles spoke : 

" You really advise me to leave Rowley Court 1 " he said. 

" Certainly I do ; if not as a physician — in which capa- 
city you do not require my services, happily — as a friend. 
You are not naturally of a very active temperament ; and 
moping about here, in a place which is necessarily gloomy 
just now, and where you have no congenial occupation, will 
not improve you in that respect. Go up to town for the 
remainder of the season, and then go abroad for a few 
months ; and you will find that you will come back wonder- 
fully reconciled to being master of Rowley Court." 



IN POSSESSION. ; 7 

" I like your advice," said Miles with unusual briskness 
of tone ; " and I think I will take it ; at least I will take 
it so far as going up to town is concerned. As for the 
rest " 

" As for the rest, you can think of it when the time 
comes," said the doctor. " And now I must bid you good- 
bye, and be off. I have to call at Dale and Stourton before 
I go home to dinner." 

As Dr. Barford drove down the wide smooth avenue, 
between the ranks of tall stately elms which bordered the 
well-kept road, he thought : " That's a fine young fellow, 
but of rather a gloomy turn of mind. I hope he may fall 
in love and marry up in London, and bring a new mistress 
to the Court." 

Miles walked up and down the terrace long after the 
doctor had left him, and his face wore a brighter and move 
serene expression than it had been used to wear of late. 
He had remained at Rowley Court long enough ; he knew 
how his affairs stood now ; he had really nothing to keep 
him there. He could only learn what he most desired to 
know, if indeed it were possible to learn it at all, from 
Lord Sandilands, who was just then at his house in London. 
He would go and stay with Lord Sandilands. Having 
come to this decision, he turned into the house with a 
brisker step, and felt the evening which ensued the least 
dreary through which he had lived since the Squire died. 

Had Mark Challoner been of a less autocratic disposition 
it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for him 
to have carried into execution the absolute taboo under 
which he had placed the subject of Geoffrey's disappearance. 
But the Squire had been a man of inexorable determination 
of character ; and as he was not at all capricious, and ex- 
erted this resolution only when and where it was necessary, 
he had never met with rebellion on the part of his elder 
son. What the story of the younger had been, no one knew ; 
no one had any certain indication by which to guess. The 
tutor to whom the education of the two boys had been in- 
trusted was absent from Rowley Court when the separation 
intended by Mark Challoner, and destined by Providence, 
to be final, had taken place ; and there was no reason to sup- 
pose that Mr. Mordaunt had ever received any information 
his former pupil from the Squire. Had Miles 



78 



THE EOCK AHEAD. 



Challoner been either older or younger at the time of the 
occurrence, he might have been unable to observe his father's 
peremptory command with the reluctant obedience he had 
manifested until the end, when his pent-up anxiety had 
found vent in his useless appeal to the dying Squire. But 
he had outlived the restless irrepressible curiosity of the 
child, and he had not reached the calm deliberative reasoning 
of the man. Now that the latter mode of thought had 
fully come to him, he suffered keenly, as only such sensitive 
natures have the gift to suffer, from his helpless ignorance 
of his brother's fate. The thought haunted him. As chil- 
dren, he and Geoffrey had loved each other well enough, 
after the childish fashion which includes any amount of 
quarrelling and making-up again ; but as boys they had 
never got on very well together. They were essentially 
different, with the difference which makes discord, not with 
the contrast which produces harmony. Miles had always 
had an unacknowledged consciousness that Geoffrey cared 
very little about him, and this had had its influence upon the 
sensitive boy, an influence even stronger than that of the 
want of accord in the tastes and pursuits of the brothers. 
As Miles had advanced into manhood, he had come to 
understand all the appalling gravity of such a sentence 
as that which his father had passed upon his brother when 
he forbade the mention of his name in the house where he 
had been born and bred. With this comprehension came 
an intense yearning to know the meaning of the sentence, — ■ 
to be enabled to estimate its justice ; a kind of revolt on 
behalf of the banished brother, in which affection had less 
share than an abstract love of right, happily strong in the 
nature of the young man. And now there was no means of 
satisfying this yearning ; the secret had to all appearance 
died with the Squire, but its consequences remained, to 
become an almost intolerable burden to Miles Challoner. 

Lord Sandilands received his young friend's letter with 
sincere pleasure. He liked Miles ; he liked his ideas and 
" ways ; " he liked his society. The young man had a happy 
faculty for creating this kind of liking among his fellows. 
He was large-minded and unselfish, and so he did not neg- 
lect or trample upon the feelings of other people, or try their 
tempers much or often. He was not a brilliant person, and 
therefore could afford to be good-natured and unaffected ; 



IN POSSESSION. 79 

and though he possessed rather more than au average amount 
of information upon most subjects of general interest and im- 
portance, there were few men less inclined to display their 
knowledge than Miles Challoner. He was disposed to 
accord to everybody his or her fair share of conversation, 
and had an acquiescent uncritical way with him which made 
friends for him, particularly among women. Without being 
in the least deserving of that truly opprobrious epithet, a 
lady's man, Miles had strong partizans among " the conflict- 
ing gender;" and women who found him a very impracticable 
subject for flirtation were ready to acknowledge that his 
notions of friendship were peculiarly exalted and practical. 
People who knew him, but had never troubled themselves 
to think about him particularly, would nevertheless have 
answered promptly to any question respecting him, that he 
was a fine honourably-minded fellow, and rather clever than 
otherwise ; and the few who knew him well would have 
said substantially the same thing in more numerous and 
perhaps stronger words. The truth is, it was about all that 
could be said of Miles Challoner at the important period of 
his life which witnessed his father's death and his own 
succession to the family property, with its penalties and 
privileges of squiredom. He had reached man's estate some 
years before ; but there had been nothing in the course and 
manner of his life previously to develop his character 
strongly, — to bring its good or evil traits into prominence. 
It had been an even, prosperous, happy life, on which he had 
entered with all the advantages of high animal spirits and 
unblemished health. Whether he had in him the stuff 
which either defies or moulds destiny, the courage which is 
matured in suffering, the truth and steadfastness of character 
which are at once weapons and armour in the strife of 
human existence, it was for time to tell. 

Time did tell. 

" I'm uncommonly glad you have made up your mind to 
come to town," wrote Lord Sandilauds to Miles Challoner ; 
" it is the best thing you can do ; and so far from being 
disrespectful to your father's memory, it is your best way of 
avoiding what might even appear disrespectful to those 
who are no doubt watching you pretty closely. You have 
not a taste for the things the Squire (God bless him !) 
delighted in, and you cannot affect to have ; because, in the 



80 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

first place, it is not in you to affect, and, in the second, you 
would certainly be found out by Mr. Styles. (Ceres and 
Pomona ! shall I ever forget a dialogue between your father 
and him about the best crop for the Bayhamsfields ?) You 
will offend your new people much less by absence than by 
indifference, depend upon it. Then you can thoroughly 
depend on Styles ; and you can always put agricultural 
enthusiasm on paper. So come up, my dear boy ; and the 
sooner the better." 

Miles Challoner went to London, and very soon after he 
arrived there " time" began " to tell." 



CHAPTER III. 

CAEABAS HOUSE. 

CAP ABAS HOUSE is in Beaumanoir Square, as most 
people know. Long before the smart stuccoed 
residences — with their plate-glass windows, their conser- 
vatoried balconies, their roomy porticoes — sprung up, like 
Aladdin's palaces, at the command of the great wizard- 
builder, Compo, who so recently died a baronet and a 
millionaire ; when the ground on which Beaumanoir Square 
now stands was a dreary swamp, across which our great- 
grandmothers, in fear of their lives, were carried to 
Panelagh, Carabas House stood, a big, rambling, red- 
bricked mansion, surrounded on all sides by a high wall, 
and looking something between a workhouse, a lunatic 
asylum, and a gaol. To the Marquis of Carabas of those 
■days it mattered little what was the aspect of his ancestral 
home, as he, from the time of his accession, had resolutely 
declined to see it, or any other part of the domain whence 
his title and estates were derived, preferring to spend his 
life on the Continent of Europe, in the society of agreeable 
men and women, and in the acquisition of a splendid 
collection of pictures, statues, and other objets d'art, which 
at his lordship's lamented demise were sold in Paris at a 
world-famous sale extending over many days, the pecuniary 
result of which was hailed with the greatest satisfaction by 
his lordship's heir. For Mr. Purrington, his lordship's 



CAKABAS HOUSE. 81 

cousin, who succeeded to the title and estates, wanted 
money very badly indeed, he had been speculating for a 
very long time on the chances of his succession, and he had 
to pay very dearly for these speculations. He had contested 
his county in the Tory interest four separate times, at a cost 
known only to himself, his wife, and his head agent. He had 
married the daughter of an Irish peer ; a lovely woman, full 
of talent, affectionate, loyal, energetic, and thoroughly under- 
standing her position as a county member's wife, but with a 
number of impecunious relations, all of whom looked for 
assistance to the heir to an English marquisate. He was a 
crack shot, and always paired about the 25th of July for 
the remainder of the session, having, according to his own 
account, the great luck of having one of the best Scotch 
moors "lent to him" for three weeks from the 12th. He 
was a capital judge of a horse, a keen rider to hounds, and 
the invariable occupant of a little box near Egerton Lodge, 
with a stud sufficient to see him " out " four days a week ; 
but this, as he pathetically put it, was his " only expense." 
In the season Lady Fanny had her Wednesday-evening 
receptions, when a perpetual stream of fashionables, political 
people, and the usual ruck of young men who are met 
everywhere, would filter from ten till one through her little 
drawing-rooms in Clarges Street ; and her Saturday dinners 
of eight, which were very good and very enjoyable, and 
where pleasant people in various social circles met together 
without the dread of seeing their names announced in the 
fashionable journals. But all these things cost a great deal 
of money ; and when Mr. Purrington became the Marquis 
of Carabas, he was very nearly at the end of his tether. 

The marquisate of Carabas, however, was by no means an 
empty title, a grand position lacking means to support its 
proper state, than which it is impossible to fancy anything 
more painful. During the late lord's lifetime the revenue 
had very far exceeded the expenditure, and the Parisian, 
sale had left a very large balance at Coutts's ; so that the 
new people entered upon their estate with great comfort, 
and were enabled to carry out their peculiarly extensive 
views of life without embarrassing themselves in the slight- 
est degree. It was shortly after their accession that the big 
brick screen-wall was replaced by a light and elegant bronze 
railing ; that the rambling red-bricked mansion was trans- 

G 



82 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

formed into a modern stone house ; that the Marchioness of 
Carabas took her position as a leader of ton, and in Carabas 
House, so long black and desolate and abandoned, chimneys 
omoked, and lights blazed, and music resounded, and the 
best people in London found themselves gathered together 
three times a week. 

The best people ? The very best. 

It was the fashion in certain circles to talk of " the 
mixture " which you met at Carabas House ; and the young 
Duchess of Taffington (whose father was old Bloomer the banker 
of Lombard-street, and whose grandfather was old Bloom 
the money-lender and diamond-merchant of Amsterdam) 
and old Lady Clanronald, with whom her husband, then the 
Hon. Ulick Strabane, fell in love, from seeing her looking 
over the blind in her father's (the apothecary's) window in 
Drogheda, — both these great ladies shrugged their very 
different pairs of shoulders whenever the Marchioness's 
receptions were alluded to before them ; but neither of these 
leaders of fashion could deny that princes of the blood, royal 
dukes, stars and garters, ambassadors, belles of the season, 
Foreign-Office clerks, and all the great creatures of the day, 
were blocked together, week after week, on the staircase at 
Carabas House ; or that the Marchioness herself took pas 
and precedence, according to her rank, and was one of the 
most distinguished and most highly-thought-of guests 
wherever she chose to go. 

"That's so!" as Jack Hawkes, of the F. O., would 
remark to his familiars ; " neither the Duchess nor old 
Clanronald can get over that, and that's what makes them 
so wild ; and as to the mixture they talk about, that's lions. 
She's in great form, don't you know, Lady Carabas is, and 
quite fit, but her weakness is lions ; and I'm bound to say 
that you meet some people at Carabas House who are quite 
out of the hunt. If any fellow gets talked about, no matter 
what he is — writing fellow, painting fellow, fiddling fellow 
— I'll lay odds you'll find him there. There's what's his 
name 1 — Burkinyoung : man who made a stir last year with 
his poems ; they had him down there, sir, at their place on 
the river — "Weir Lodge — and he used to sit on the lawn 
under the trees with Lady Carabas pouring eau-de-cologne 
on his head, and some of her lot — Maude Allingham, and 
Agnes Creswell, and that lot, don't you know 1 — fanning 



CAKABAS HOUSE. 83 

him and keeping the flies off while he composed ; no one 
was allowed to come near for fear of disturbing him. Give 
you my honour, heard it first-hand from Chinny Middleton 
of the Blues, who pulled up from "Windsor in his canoe, and 
was going to land, as usual, and got warned off, by George, 
as though he'd got the plague on board ! " 

There was a good deal of truth in Mr. Hawkes's remarks, 
Lady Carabas being Mrs. Leo Hunter on a very superior 
scale. Her passion was that every one distinguished not 
merely in her own rank in life but in every other should be 
seen in her rooms ; and from her position and by her fas- 
cinating manner she generally managed to attain her object. 
The pilot of the state ship, at a period when opposition 
winds were howling loud and the political horizon was black 
with threatened storm, would find time to pass a few 
minutes at one of Lady Carabas's receptions, however hag- 
gard his looks, however burning his brain. The right 
honourable gentleman the leader of the Opposition, who 
for the last month had been gathering himself together for 
a tiger-like spring on the state pilot, might have been seen, 
on the night before he made his grand onslaught, jammed 
into a corner of the staircase at Carabas House, looking 
like the Sphinx in evening dress, and pleasantly bantering 
Mr. Mulvaney, the celebrated " special correspondent " of 
the Statesman. Any one talked of in any way ; the belles 
of the season ; pretty women, presentable of course, but 
quite out of the Carabas set ; dawning lights in politics, no 
matter of what party ; artists, young and old — of every 
one whom you saw at Carabas House you would learn that 
they had done something special ; indeed Jack Hawkes, an 
invaluable cicerone, could talk for two hours on a grand 
night, and not get through his list. "Who are all these 
strange people that one sees nowhere else t Well, every- 
body's somebody, and it's difficult to know where to begin. 
Let's see. That short, stout, common-looking man is 
Vireduc, the great engineer and contractor — builds bridges, 
railroads, and those kind of things, don't you know 1 — 
horrible fellow, who's always telling you he came to London 
with eightpence in his pocket, and rose from nothing, as 
though one couldn't see that. Woman sitting this side the 
ottoman is Mrs. Goodchild ; writes novels — pretty good, 
they say. I don't read ; I haven't any time. Her husband's 

g 2 



84 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

somewhere about ; but he's nobody — only asked because of 
his wife. The little man talking to her is Bistry the 
surgeon — have your leg off before you can say ' knife ; ' 
and the brown-faced man, who looks so bored, is Sir Alan 
Tulwar, Indian army man, made K.C.B. for something he 
did out there — Punjaub, don't you know 1 The little man 
with the big head is Polaski, the flute-player ; and the fat 
man with the red face is Ethelred Jinks, the Queen's Counsel. 
That pretty little fair girl is Miss "Wren, who shot the burglar 
down in Hampshire three years ago ; and the little boy in 
black, as you call him, is Jules Brissot, the Red Republican, 
who was blown off a barricade on the 4th of December, and 
settled down here as a — what do you call it 1 — tutor." 

This will suffice as a specimen of Mr. Hawkes's conversa- 
tion, which, on such occasions, had the singular merit of 
having a substratum of truth. 

But though lions of all kinds were to be found roaring 
during the season at Carabas House, none were so welcome 
as the musical lions, both native and foreign. In her 
younger days, Lady Carabas had had a pretty little voice her- 
self, and even in Clarges Street she had always managed to 
secure some of the best professional talent at a very much 
less expense than any of her friends ; and when once Lord 
Carabas had succeeded, " musical mossoo," as Jack Hawkes 
was accustomed to call all foreigners who played or sung 
professionally, had his head-quarters in Beaumanoir Square. 
Heinrich Katzenjammer, who, being a native of Emmerich 
on the Lower Rhine, thought proper to advertise in the 
English newspapers in the French language, had not been 
" de retour " many hours before his limp glazed card was on 
the hall- table at Carabas House. Baton, the chef d'orchestre, 
would as soon have thought of being absent from his con- 
ductor's stool on a Saturday night as from Lady Carabas's 
luncheon-table on a Sunday afternoon. There the most 
promising pupils of the Academy of Music made their 
debuts in cantatas or operettas, written by distinguished 
amateurs, and thereby considered themselves entitled ever 
after to describe themselves as " of the nobility's concerts ; " 
and there, on festival nights, could you check off the prin- 
cipal singers and players whom London delighted to honour, 
with the amateurs, the dilettanti, and the cognoscienh, who 
always follow in their wake. 



CARABAS HOUSE. 85 

It was a soft bright night in early summer, and Beau- 
manoir Square was filled with flashing lamps, and whirling 
carriages, and stamping horses, and excited drivers, and 
roaring linkmen. It was a grand night at Carabas House, 
and all London was expected there. The police had enough 
to do to make the vehicles keep in line ; and when some of 
tho royal carriages familiarly used the royal privilege and 
dashed through here and cut in there, the confusion in- 
creased a thousandfold ; and it was with the greatest diffi- 
culty that the crowd surging round the door were thrust 
back right and left to allow the visitors to enter, or were 
prevented from casting themselves under the wheels of the 
carriages as they drew up, with the recklessness of Jugger- 
naut victims. Halfway down the line was a perfectly- 
appointed brougham, in which sat Miles Challoner and the 
friend with whom he was staying. Lord Sandilands was in 
every respect a remarkable-looking man ; tall and upright, 
with a polished bald head slightly fringed with snow-white 
soft hair ; thin clean-cut features ; grey eyes, from which 
most of the fire had faded ; and small carefully-trimmed grey 
whiskers. His appearance and manners were those of a 
past age ; now in hi3 evening dress he wore a high stiff 
white muslin cravat, an elaborately got-up cambric shirt frill, 
a blue coat with brass buttons, white waistcoat, black trousers 
fitting tightly round the ankles, silk stockings and shoes. 
His voice was particularly soft and clear, as replying to 
some remark of his companion, he said : " No, indeed ; I 
think both you and I are perfectly right ; you in con- 
senting to come, I in having persuaded you ; besides, I 
should have scarcely dared to present myself to Lady 
Carabas without you. Her ladyship's dictum is that you 
require rousing, and to-night is to be the first experiment 
in rousing you." 

" Her ladyship is very kind to interest herself in me," 
said Miles. " I have no claim upon her thoughts." 

" My dear fellow," said Lord Sandilands, " you will very 
soon see that Lady Carabas interests herself about everybody 
and everything. That is her metier. She will talk to the 
Bishop of Boscastle about the Additional Curates' Fund, 
and to Sir Charles Chifney about his chance for the Leger. 
She knows what price Scumble got for his Academy picture ; 
and can tell you the plot of Spofforth's five-act play, which 



86 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

is as yet unwritten. She could tell you what the Duke of 
Brentford said to Tom Forbes, who arrived late on escort- 
duty at the last Drawing-room — she couldn't quote the 
Duke's exact words, which were full-flavoured; and could give 
you the heads of the charge which Judge Minos will deliver 
on the great libel case ; and with all that she dresses as 
well as Lady Oapisbury herself, and bears the whole weight 
of that household on her own shoulders. There's do estate 
in Britain better managed than Carabas, and her ladyship is 
her own agent, steward, bailiff — everything." 

" She must be a wonderful woman." 

" Wonderful ! there's nothing like her ! Lord Carabas 
thinks of nothing but shooting and fishing. Her eldest son, 
the Earl of Booterstown, is a religious monomaniac ; and 
her youngest, Lord Grey de Malkin, is one of your political 
new lights, lecturing at mechanics' institutes, and making 
speeches to working-men. You know the kind of fellow. 
Now, here we are ! — Tell Fisher to wait, James," — to the 
footman, — " we sha'n't stay very long." 

The hall was filled with people, all of whom the old gentle- 
man seemed to know, and greeted with somewhat stately cour- 
tesy. " A regular Carabas crush," whispered he to Miles, as 
they commenced the ascent of the staircase. " Everybody 
here. The Lord Chancellor next to you, and the Bishop of 
Boscastle coming down the stairs. He has evidently dined 
here, sweet old thing ; and is going away before the worldly 
music begins. — How do you do, my lord 1 I trust Mrs. 
Shum is well ! — Deuced fine woman, by the way, is Mrs. 
Shum, my dear Miles. — Ha, Ellenbogen ! you in London, 
and I've not seen you ? Only arrived last night, eh ?' 
Come to me to-morrow, eh 1 Au revoir ! — That is the 
famous German violinist ; nothing like his touch in the 
world — so crisp, so perfectly sympathetic. There's Lady 
Carabas at her post, of course. Brave woman, breasting 
this surging ocean of visitors. Gad, how glad she must be 
when it's all over ! " 

Following his friend's glance, Miles looked up and saw 
Lady Carabas stationed at the head of the staircase. A tall 
handsome woman of fifty, with all the look and bearing of 
a grande dame, a little softened by the frank geniality of 
her manner. She received Miles Challoner, on his presen- 
tation to her, with something more than mere graciousness 



CARABAS HOUSE. 87 

— with cordiality ; then, turning to Lord Sandilands, said, 
" She's here." 

" Is she, indeed ? " said the old gentleman with equal 
earnestness. 

"Yes, and in excellent spirits: I have not the least 
doubt of her success." 

" That is delightful ; " and they passed on. When they 
had gone a few steps, Miles asked his friend who was the 
lady of whom he and Lady Carabas were speaking. 

" My dear fellow," said Lord Sandilands with a little 
chuckle, " I haven't the remotest notion. Dear Lady Cara- 
bas is always giving one half-confidences about people she's 
interested in, and 'pon my life I'm too old to open my heart 
indiscriminately, and make myself partaker of the joys and 
sorrows of half the world. So, as she's a dear good creature, 
and I would not offend her for the world, I nod my head, 
and grin, and pretend I know all about it ; and I find that 
answers very well." 

Miles laughed at the old gentleman's evident satisfaction, 
and they entered the rooms. A large movable platform, so 
slightly raised as to give the performers sufficient altitude 
above the spectators without disconcerting them by any 
pretensions to a stage, occupied one end of the spacious 
apartment, a recent erection built specially for concert- 
giving purposes, and with all the latest acoustic improve- 
ments. Opposite the platform, bristling with seats for the 
instrumentalists, stood the conductor's desk. To the right 
of this were a few benches for the most distinguished guests, 
and behind it were the seats for the general company. All 
the seats were unoccupied at present, and the company were 
grouped together about the room, chatting freely. It was 
early in the season at present ; and that frightful lack of 
conversation which necessarily falls on people who have 
naturally very little to say, and who, having seen each other 
every night for three months, have exhausted that little, 
had not as yet made itself felt. Miles Challoner, as he 
looked round on the beautiful women so exquisitely dressed, 
the brightly-lighted room, the inexpressible air of luxury 
and elegance which pervaded the entire scene, as he thought 
that for the future he might, if he so chose, have similar 
pleasant resorts at his command, felt the oppressive thoughts, 
the dull, dead level of world-weariness and vapidity, 



88 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

gradually slipping from him. His eyes brightened, he 
looked round him eagerly, and his whole demeanour was so 
fresh and spirited and youthful as to seriously annoy several 
blase young men of two or three-and-twenty, who had long 
since used up all signs of youth, and who inquired of each 
other who was the rustic, gushing person that old Sandilands 
had brought with him. 

Lord Sandilands had himself noticed the change in his 
friend's manner, and was about to rally him on it, when the 
musicians came trooping into the room and took their places. 
Sir Purcell Arne, the well-known amateur composer, who 
was to conduct, rapped the desk in front of him ; the foreign 
professionals who had settled themselves modestly in the 
back rows, uttered profound sounds of " Hsh — sh ! " and 
the company generally seated themselves. Lord Sandilands 
and Miles were proceeding with the rest, when the former 
saw himself beckoned by Lady Carabas to the place of 
distinction by her side, and he took his young friend with 
him. 

The overture ought to have been very well played, for it 
was very much applauded at its conclusion, though, as Jack 
Hawkes remarked to the young lady sitting next to him, 
that might possibly have been because they were so glad it 
was over. It is certain that during the performance several 
of the more excitable foreigners ground their teeth, and 
covered their ears with their hands, while at its close Sir 
Purcell Arne addressed two recreant members of the 
orchestra — the second cornet and the first clarionet, being 
respectively a young gentleman in the Coldstreams, and an 
old gentleman in the India Office — in terms of the strongest 
opprobrium. Sir Purcell's good temper was restored after 
his son, a favourite pupil of Ellenbogen's, had played a solo 
on the violin ; and during the applause consequent thereon, 
he crossed over to Lady Carabas's seat, and whispered, "She's 
quite ready ; shall I bring her in 1 " Lady Carabas, too 
much excited to speak, gave him an affirmative nod ; and 
the enthusiasm had scarcely subsided, to be renewed with 
tenfold force as Sir Purcell returned leading by the hand a 
young lady, whom, with one of his best bows, he left 
facing the audience, while he went back to his conductor's 
desk. 

The young lady stood perfectly unmoved by the storm of 



BREAKING COVER. 89 

applause which hailed her arrival, the only sign of emotion 
which she betrayed being a slight contraction of her thin 
decisive lips ; and this was only momentary. She was a 
decidedly pretty girl, Miles thought ; with rich brown eyes, 
and well-formed features, and slight though rounded figure. 
In her dark chestnut hair, which was banded close round 
her head, and gathered into a large knot behind, she wore 
one white rose, and another in the front of her plain white- 
silk dress. Other ornament had she none, save a gold 
locket with a horse-shoe in turquoises on her neck, and a 
bracelet, a band of plain gold, on one arm. Who was this 
handsome and distinguished-looking girl who was received 
with so much empressement ? Miles Challoner took up a 
perfumed programme that lay beside him, and read her 
name — Miss Grace Lambert. 



CHAPTER IV 

BREAKING COVER. 

MISS GRACE LAMBERT! Who was she? The 
programme, of course, told nothing but her name, 
and when Miles Challoner turned to his companion for the 
purpose of inquiring further, he saw that his brows were 
knit, and his lips tightly clenched. Miles looked at 
Lord Sandilands in surprise, but forbore to question him. 
It was evident that the people in his immediate vicinity 
were equally unable to assuage his curiosity, as they were 
all talking and chattering together, and throwing glances 
towards the occupant of the platform, who stood totally 
unmoved. Then Sir Purcell Arne, looking round with a 
half-anxiou?, half-triumphant air, gave the customary three 
taps on his desk, and with a wave of his baton led the 
orchestra into the prelude. It was a simple English air — 
very simple — with a pathetic refrain, and out from the 
harmonious ensemble of the musicians came a soft sweet 
bird-like voice, beginning mellowly and low, then rising 
into a clear pure treble, a volume of lark-like utterance, a 
continuous ripple of sound, such as is seldom beard in 
human voice. Few notes had been uttered before their 



90 THE KOCK AHEAD. 

effect became visible on the whole assemblage — amongst the 
foreigners first ; on the back benches, where were gathered 
the hirsute professionals honoured with the entree to Lady 
Carabas' concerts, there was an immediate movement, a 
simultaneous pricking of ears and elevation of eyebrows, 
culminating into a general impossible-to-be-suppressed 
" A — h ! " of intense delight. Then the enthusiasm spread. 
Impressible young girls, with the nil-admirari breeding 
scarcely yet habitual to them, looked timidly towards their 
chaperones, as though pleading, " For Heaven's sake, let us 
for one moment be natural, and give vent to the delight 
with which this girl has inspired us." Said chaperones, with 
some faint reminiscence of nature unbusked and unsteeled 
by conventionality, sought relief in faintly tapping their 
kidded palms with their fans. Old boys, dragged away 
from after-dinner naps, or cosy house-dinners at the clubs, 
to do family duty, and expecting nothing but driest musical 
classicalities, expressed their gratitude in strident " bravas." 
Even the gilded youth of the period, surprised out of its 
usual inanity into a feeble semblance of life and earnestness, 
condescended to express its opinion of the singer, that she 
was not " half bad, don't you know 1 " And its component 
members inquired of each other, " who the devil is she ? " 
On Lady Carabas' handsome face the hard-set look of 
anxiety had softened into the blandest smile of triumph; 
old Sir Purcell Arne's blond moustache bristled with 
delight ; and at the conclusion of the ballad, when the 
singer, rising to the occasion, had sent a flood of melody 
surging through the room, now dying away in softest trills 
and most harmonious cadences, the enthusiasm could no 
longer be restrained, and amidst sonorous applause breaking 
forth from every side, the amateur instrumentalists leading 
the van, and Lady Carabas herself, regardless of appear- 
ances or of the value of three-buttoned gloves, clapping 
her hands with the ardour of the most zealous member of a 
professional claque, — Miss Grace Lambert, perfectly com- 
posed, and with the slightest bow in recognition of her 
triumph, laid her fingers daintily on Sir Purcell Arne's 
tremblingly-proffered arm, and disappeared from public 
view. Ten minutes' interval now, much needed. Impos- 
sible, after such a display, to keep the coterie quiet, and it 
breaks up at once into twenty little knots, all with the 



BREAKING COVER. 91 

same refrain of praise, differently expressed : " Das ist aber 
'was tSchiines ! " " Tiens, tiens, Jules ! via done un rossignol 
charmant ! '' " That's what I call good singing, for an 
Englishwoman, that is, Veluti ! Capisco, signor I" "Tell 
you what it is, old fella ; since poor Bosio, you know, never 
heard anything like that, don't you know? It's A 1, don't 
you know ? " Frank testimonies these, from the male sex ; 
chiming in with " Dearest Lady Carabas, O, how I con- 
gratulate you ! Where did you find such a treasure ; 
Charmin', quite charmin' ; so lady-like, and all that kind of 
thing. Quite a nice-looking person, too ! " from the female 
portion of the audience. 

She had vanished, and Miles Challoner remained mute 
and dazed. Of beauty he had always had a keen appre- 
ciation — that is, beauty as he understood it — showing itself 
in tolerable regularity of feature, in grace and aristocratic 
toumure. Hed-and-white women, were they duchesses or 
dairymaids — and it must be owned that when Nature alone 
is depended upon they are generally the latter — found no 
favour in Miles' s eye3. He used to say he liked a " bred "- 
looking woman ; and here was one who, so far as appear- 
ance went, might have been a Plantagenet. And her voice 
— good Heavens ! — was there ever heard anything so com- 
pletely enthralling ! The blood yet danced in his veins 
with the delight excited when that low tremulous utter- 
ance, gradually rising into trills of lark-like melody, first 
stole upon his ear. No wonder that all in the room were 
talking loudly in her praise. All 1 No. Rapt in his own 
delight, Miles had forgotten to speak to Lord Sandilands, 
to whom he partly owed the pleasure he had just experi- 
enced, and he turned to repair his neglect. 

Lord Sandilands was sitting " quiet as a stone." He had 
recovered his gloves, and his long shapely white hands were 
tightly clasped together on his knee. Despite the tight 
clasp, the hands twitched nervously, and on the old man's 
well-cut features Miles noticed a worn pinched look, such 
as he had never before observed. Lord Sandilands' eyes, 
too, were downcast, and he did not raise them even when 
Miles addressed him. 

" Was there ever anything so charming as that young 
lady?" 

" She has a very sweet voice." 



92 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" Sweet ! it is perfectly entrancing ! I had no idea such 
sounds could be produced by human throat ; and then her 
appearance so thoroughly lady-like, and such an exquisite 
profile ! Why, even you, who go in so strictly for the 
classical, must have been satisfied with the profile ! " 

"I scarcely observed her." 

" Scarcely observed her ! Why, my dear old friend, 
that is very unlike your usual habit when a pretty woman 
is in question, unless, indeed, you were so enthralled by her 
voice that you cared for nothing else." 

" Ye-es ; that was it, I suppose — I — " 

The conversation was interrupted by the return of the 
other guests, who, summoned by Sir Purcell Arne's pre- 
liminary taps, came back to their seats to hear the rest of 
the concert. All rustle and talk and chatter still. 
"Never was anything like it. I'm sure I can'b tell 
where you pick up these wonderful people, dear Lady 
Carabas. And what comes next, dear Lady Carabas ? 0, 
now we're to have Mr. Wisk's operetta — for the first 
time ; never was played anywhere before. You know 
Ferdinand Wisk 1 clever creature ! there he is, comin' to 
conduct it himself. Sh — h ! " 

That clever creature, Mr. Ferdinand Wisk, who was sup- 
posed to be a scion of the aristocracy, but whose real 
mission in life seemed to be to devote himself to the 
affairs, public and private, of every member of the musical 
world, English or foreign, advanced rapidly through the 
room, and took the baton which Sir Purcell handed to him 
amidst general applause. Mr. Wisk's operetta needs but 
little mention here. It was bright and sparkling, and 
would have been more original if the overture had not 
been cribbed from Auber, and the concerted pieces from 
Offenbach ; but as it was, it did remarkably well, affording 
opportunities for two young ladies and two young gentlemen 
to sing very much out of tune ; for the funny man of the 
company to convulse the audience with his drolleries; and 
for the audience generally to repay themselves for their 
silence during Miss Grace Lambert's ballad, by chatting 
without stint. Perhaps the only two persons in the room 
who did not avail themselves of this opportunity were Lord 
Sandilands and Miles Challoner. The former, having 
glanced at the programme, and noticed that Miss Lambert's 



BREAKING COVER. 93- 

name did not appear again tlierein, made a half-muttered 
apology to Lady Carabas about the "heat," and left the 
room very shortly after the commencement of Mr. Wisk's 
performance ; while the latter could not shake off the spell 
which held him, and which, during all the comic gentleman's 
funnhnents and all the others' bad singing, gave but Grace 
Lambert's voice to his ears, her face and figure to his 
eyes. 

To supper now, foreigners first — making great running, 
and leaving every one else far behind ; leaping on to edibles 
and dashing at potables with such vigour as to cause one to 
think they had not dined, as indeed many of them had not. 
And now, more congratulation amongst visitors, more 
" Did you evers ? " a perfect whirlwind of " Don't you 
knows 1 " and " only to think of dear Lady Carabas being 
so fortunate, and such a wonderful acquisition even to her 
set !" Ferdinand Wisk, a little depressed at being thrown 
into the background by the superior attractions of Miss- 
Lambert ; and the funny man of the company feeling him- 
self not sufficiently appreciated, and thirsting for Miss 
Lambert's blood — both, however, consoled by old Piccolo, 
the fashionable music-master, who is popularly supposed to- 
have been allied with Auber and Offenbach in writing 
Mr. Wisk's operetta, and who tells them that Miss 
Lambert's triumph is a mere succes d'estime, and that she 
will " go out like that — pouf ! " Piccolo snapping his 
fingers and blowing out an imaginary candle in explanation. 
Foreigners having been fed, and a proper quantity of 
champagne and seltzer-water having been duly drunk, it 
enters into the minds of some of the younger guests that 
dancing would be a pleasant pastime for the remainder of 
the night, such exercise being sometimes permitted at the 
concerts, when Lady Carabas is in especially good temper,, 
which is the case to-night apparently ; for servants are in- 
structed to clear the concert-room, a band is improvised, 
and the floor is soon covered with whirling couples. 

On these dancers Miles Challoner stood gazing with an 
abstracted air. At the conclusion of the concert he had 
moved with the rest, and on passing Lady Carabas had 
addressed to her a few words of compliment on the success 
of her evening ; words which, although Miles did not re- 
mark it, were pleasantly received ; for though Lady Caraba3 



94 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

bad come to that time of life when she was called an " old 
thing " by very young ladies, the epithet having " dear " or 
" horrid," according to the speaker's tastes, attached to it, 
she still delighted in the admiration of men, if they were 
clever or handsome, and purred under their praises with 
ineffable satisfaction. Whether Miles Challoner was clever, 
Lady Carabas had yet to learn ; but she knew that he was 
undeniably handsome, and that he was a credit to her 
evening. Many other people in the rooms had thought so 
too ; and though strange faces were more frequently seen 
at Carabas House than in any other frequented by the same 
set, Miles's tall figure and frank face had excited a certain 
amount of languid curiosity, and the " new importation," as 
he was called by people who had been twice to the house, 
made a very favourable first impression. 

He was not the least conscious of it, though, nor, had 
he beeD, would he have particularly cared. When Lord 
Sandilands' brougham drew up under the portico of Carabas 
House, when Miles, after climbing up the staircase — a unit 
in the throng of pretty women and distinguished men — was 
presented to Lady Carabas, the young man felt that he 
was entering on a new and entrancing sphere of life, in 
which he was henceforth to move ; and his thoughts in the 
little time he allowed himself for thinking, were of a roseate 
hue. He had sufficient money to live easily with those 
people amongst whom Lord Sandilands' introduction would 
give him position, and place him at his ease. Emerging 
from the dull country-squire life to which he at first had 
imagined himself relegated, he should now mix on excellent 
footing with that society which he had always thought of 
with envy, but never thoroughly comprehended. In a word, 
when Sir Purcell Arne left the room for the purpose of 
fetching the new singer, there was not in England, perhaps, 
at that moment, a more thoroughly happy young man than 
Miles Challoner. But ever since Grace Lambert's voice 
had fallen on his ear, he had been a different man. As he 
listened to her, as he gazed upon her handsome face and 
elegant figure, he sat enthralled, spell-bound by her charm. 
And when she had gone, her voice remained ringing in his 
ears, her face and figure remained before his eyes, while a 
total change, to him entirely unaccountable, had come over 
his thoughts. What had sent his mind wandering back to 



CREAKING COVEM. 95 

the early days of his childhood 1 What had suddenly 
brought to his recollection his brother Geoffrey as he last 
saw him, a bright, bold, daring boy, persistent in carrying 
through whatever might be uppermost in his mind, and 
undeterred by fear of his tutor, or even of his stern father ? 
He had just decided with delight upon the course ol life 
which he would pursue in future ; but now he wondered 
whether he had decided rightly. Ought he not, in his 
position as head of the Challoner family, to live down at the 
old place, as all his forefathers, save his uncle Howard, who 
was universally hated, had done ? Was it not his bounden 
duty to be there, ready, when called upon, to give advice 
and assistance to his tenantry and poorer neighbours ? 
And that thought of Geoffrey ! Ought he not, even in 
spite of all his father had said, to have taken some steps 
to trace his brother's career from the time of his leaving 
home, at all events to endeavour to ascertain the reason 
of the fatal sentence of banishment which had been pro- 
nounced against him ? Ought he not — and then he found 
himself wondering what connection Miss Grace Lambert's 
voice and face had with these thoughts, and then he roused 
himself from the reverie into which he had fallen, and 
things material took their proper shapes and forms to his 
eyes : he returned from the dim past to the bright present, 
from the play-room at Rowley Court to the ball-room of 
Carabas House. 

It was getting rather late now for the outer world and 
common people in general, but not for Carabas House, 
where the meaning of the word was unknown. The great 
hall-porter in his younger and slimmer days must have 
served his apprenticeship as boots at a railway hotel, the 
only position in which he could have acquired his faculty of 
sleeplessness. Men constantly spent what they were pleased 
to call the early part of the evening at Carabas House, went 
on to other balls, which they "saw out," and returned, 
certain to find " some one left." The latest lounger at 
Pratt's, the most devoted attendant at the Raleigh, knew 
that during the season he should always be able to get his 
glass of sherry and seltzer in Beaumanoir Square, no matter 
what time of night it might be. The linkman, whose light 
had long since paled its ineffectual fire and gone out, seldom 
left before the milkman arrived ; and the pair interchanged 



96 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

confidence about the house and its owners, as is the custom 
of such people. 

The dancing was not quite so animated as when Miles 
had last looked at it. Careful men who called themselves 
seven-and-twenty, and who were really five-and-thirty, 
mindful of all the outing they had before them during the 
season, had gone home to bed. Those who remained were 
very young men and very determined girls, whose wearing 
chaperones sat blinking round the room, or solaced them- 
selves with stabbing each other, and tearing to pieces the 
reputation of their common friends, on the landing. But 
Lady Carabas was not with these ; she was standing at the 
far end of the room, surrounded by half a dozen men, with 
whom she was holding an animated conversation. One of 
them, to whom she appeared to pay particular attention, 
had his back turned to Miles, but seemed to be young, and 
of a slight wiry figure. Miles noticed this man specially, 
partly from the evident enjoyment which Lady Carabas 
took in his conversation, and partly from a peculiarity in 
his appearance, so far as it could be gathered from a back 
view, in the horsey cut of his clothes, and the slang attitude, 
rounded shoulders, and hands plunged deep into his trousers 
pockets, in which he stood conversing with his hostess. 
Miles had not noticed this gentleman before, and was 
wondering who he was, when a valsing couple, looking tired 
and out of breath, stopped immediately in front of 
him. 

"That was a grand spin," said the gentleman; "the 
room's splendid just now. Got rid of all those awful people 
who can't dance a bit, don't you know 1 and do nothing but 
get in your way. You're in great feather to-night, Miss 
Grenville." 

" Thanks, very much," said the young lady, smiling ; " a 
compliment from you is quite the most charming thing pos- 
sible — perhaps because it's so rare, Mr. Ashleigh." 

" 'Gad, I don't know ! " replied the gentleman, who was 
two-and-twenty years of age, and who might have been 
two-and-sixty for calm self-possession and savoir /aire. 
" I'm rather a good hand at saying nice things, I think." 

" When you don't mean them, perhaps 1 " 

" No, no. Now you are down upon me too sharp, Miss 
Grenville ; 'pon my word you are ; and I can never say 



BREAKING COVER. 97 

anything, nice or not nice, at this time of night. Lefafinish 
the valse." 

'■ I'm afraid I must not stay any longer, Mr. Ashleigh ! 
Really, it's quite too cruel to poor mamma ; and we've two 
dances to-morrow night that we must go to. Besides, Lady 
Carabas is dying to get rid of us." 

" Don't look as if she was, does she, Miss Grenville ? 
Laughing away ; look at her. Wonderful woman, Lady 
Carabas ! " 

" Who is the gentleman she is talking to ? " 

" That ? O, that's a man that's everywhere about." 

" I'm as wise as I was before. What is his name ? where 
does he come from ? " 

" His name ! 'pon my word, Miss Grenville, I forget. I'll 
go and ask him, if you like. Ah, I know, he's a great friend 
of Ticehurst's. You know Ticehurst 1 " 

"I have met Lord Ticehurst." 

" Met him ! O ah, yes ; always know what ladies mean 
when they say they've ' met ' anybody ; mean they hate 'em. 
Well, if you don't like Ticehurst, I don't think you'd like 
that man ; they're very much alike, specially Pompey, don't 
you know 1 Bad egg, and that kind of thing." 

" You are enigmatic, but sufficiently expressive, Mr. 
Ashleigh. I think I comprehend you, at least. But if he 
is that kind of person, why is he admitted here ? " 

" Dear Miss Grenville, it's exactly because he is that kind 
of person that they are glad to see him here. He's some- 
body in his line, don't you know ; though it's a bad line. 
His name, which I forget, is always mentioned in Bell and 
the sporting-papers, and that kind of thing ; and he's a — 
what do you call it ? — notoriety on the turf. By Jove ! 
Coote is just going to make those fellows leave off. Do let's 
finish the valse." 

The couple whirled away to the last bars of the music ; and 
Miles, who had perforce overheard this conversation, glanced 
across the room at the subject of it, who was still standing 
with his face averted, talking to Lady Carabas. " A plea- 
sant man that, if all my dancing friend said of him is true," 
said Miles to himself. "I wonder what Lord Sandilands 
would think of him 1 Pshaw ! he'd take it like a man of 
the world; and — eh? there is the old gentleman, making 

ii 



98 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

his way over here ; where can he have been all the 
evening ? " 

Whatever doubts Miles Challoner may have felt as to the 
line of conduct which Lord Sandilands would adopt towards 
the gentleman on whom Miles had bestowed so much 
observation, they were destined to be speedily set at rest. 
As Lord Sandilands passed the group at the other end of 
the room, Lady Carabas beckoned to him ; and by the way 
in which he and the unknown bowed to each other, Miles 
easily divined that the ceremony of introduction had taken 
place. With a half-smile at the incongruity just perpe- 
trated, Miles was making his way across the room, when a 
servant came up to him and said, " I beg your pardon, sir, 
are you Mr. Lloyd ? " Miles had scarcely time to reply in 
the negative, when the groom of the chambers, a very 
solemn-looking personage, who was passing at the moment, 
and who heard the inquiry, said, " That is Mr. Lloyd talking 
to her ladyship, James. What is wanted 1 " 

" Only Lord Ticehurst, sir, told me to tell Mr. Lloyd he 
couldn't wait any longer ; " and the man proceeded on his 
mission. Meanwhile Lady Carabas' quick eye had spied 
Miles approaching, and she advanced to meet him. "Mr. 
Challoner," said she, with a gracious smile, " I'm afraid 
you've had a horribly dull evening ; been dreadfully bored, 
and all that kind of thing. O, don't deny it ; I'm sure of 
it. But the fact is, I thought Lord Sandilands would tell 
you who people were, and introduce you, and all that ; and 
now I find he has been poked away in the library all night, 
looking at some horrid old political caricatures. Ridiculous 
of him, I tell him, to strain his eyes over such nonsense. 
He looks quite pale and worn. You must come and help 
me to scold him. By the way, I must introduce you to a 
very charming friend of mine, who fortunately is still here 
■ — Mi\ Lloyd," touching him with her fan, " let me introduce 
Mr. Challoner." 

The young man addressed wheeled round when he felt 
the touch on his arm, and before the last words were uttered 
he confronted Miles Challoner as Lady Carabas pronounced 
the name ; and at that instant the light died out of his small 
and sunken blue eyes, his cheeks became colourless, and his 
thin lips closed tightly under his long fair moustache. 
Simultaneously a bright scarlet flush overspread Miles 



MEMORY-HAUNTED. 99 

Ckalloner's face. Both then bowed slightly, but neither 
spoke ; and immediately afterwards Miles turned sharply 
on his heel, and wishing Lady Carabas a formal " good 
night," hui-ried from the room. 

" My dear boy," said Lord Sandilands — they were in the 
brougham going home — " you must pardon my saying that 
your treatment of Mr. — Mr. Lloyd was brusque to a degree. 
Supposing him even to be a highly objectionable person, 
the fact that you were introduced to him by Lady Carabas 
should have assured him — well, a more gracious reception, 
to say the least of it. You — why, what the deuce is the 
matter, Miles? you're dead-white, and your hand 
shakes 1 " 

" Nothing, dear old friend. I shall be all right again 
directly. That man — was I rude to him ? I scarcely knew 
what I said or did. That man is one whom it was my 
father's most urgent wish I should never meet or know." 



CHAPTER V. 

MEMORY-HAUNTED. 

HAD Lord Sandilands been less preoccupied by certain 
thoughts, and less disturbed by certain associations and 
recollections, suddenly aroused by the incidents which had 
just taken place, and of a painful and distracting kind, he 
would have been more strongly moved by Miles Challoner's 
abrupt and extraordinary communication. But the old 
nobleman's mood just then was a strange one ; and the 
scene which had passed before his eyes, the words which his 
young friend had spoken, affected him but slightly and 
vaguely. There had been some unpleasantness for Miles in 
the meeting with that clever-looking fellow, Lloyd ; and he 
was sorry for it. That was all. Old Mark has desired 
Miles to avoid this man, had he 1 The Squire had been very 
odd latterly, and had taken strong dislikes, and entertained 
strong prejudices all his life, but especially since that bad 
business about his son ; and in the midst of his personal 
preoccupation and abstraction, Lord Sandilands had time for 
a shudder at the thought of his old friend's great grief, and 

H 2 



100 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

a sorVof pang of thankfulness that it had come to an end, 
even though a life he valued dearly was finished with 
it. But his mind was full of his own concerns, and before 
he had reached the seclusion of his own particular sanctum 
— a small room within the library — he had almost forgotten 
the occurrence. 

Lord Sandilands sighed heavily as he sat down in a deep 
leather chair by the window, which opened into a small 
verandah, with trellised walls well clothed with creeping 
plants, and tiled with cool quaint- patterned porcelain. A 
light iron staircase led thence to the garden, which, though 
unavoidably towny, was cool, pretty, and well-cared for. 
The summer air passed lightly over the flowers, and carried 
their fresh morning breath to the old man. But he did not 
meet its perfume gladly ; it had no soothing, no refreshing 
influence for him. He moved uneasily, as though some 
painful association had come to him with the scented breeze ; 
then rose impatiently, and shut the window down, and 
paced the room from end to end. " A wonderful likeness," 
he muttered ; " quite too close for accident. There is more 
expression, more power in the face, but just the same beauty. 
Yes, it must be so ; but why have I not been told 1 " 
He stopped before a table, and tapped it with his fingers. 
" And yet, why should I have been told ? I made the con- 
ditions, I defined the rules myself; and why should I 
wonder that they have not been broken 1 What beauty 
and what talent ! Who would have thought it of poor 
Grerty's child ! — for her child and mine, Grace Lambert is! 
I am certain. What a strange sudden shock it was to me ! 
I wonder if anyone perceived it — thought I was ill, perhaps. 
The room was hot and over-crowded, as usual ; and Lady 
Carabas cackled more unbearably than ever ; still, I hope 
I did not make a fool of myself ; I hope I did not look 
upset." 

Thus, Lord Sandilands, true to the ruling principles of his 
order and his age, was disturbed in the midst of greater and 
deeper disturbance, and even diverted from his thoughts of 
it, by the dread so touchingly proper to every British mind, 
that he had been betrayed into emotion, into any departure 
from the unruffled and impassive calm which British society 
demands. 

At this stage of his soliloquy Lord Sandilands looked at 



.MEMORY-HAUNTED. 101 

himself in the chimney-glass, passed his aristocratically 
slender fingers through his aristocratically fine silver hair, 
and assured himself that his outward man had not suffered 
from the internal perturbation and surprise which he had 
experienced. This critical examination concluded, he re- 
sumed his walk and his soliloquy, which we need not follow 
in form. Its matter was as follows : 

In Grace Lambert, Lord Sandilands had recognised so 
strong a likeness to the mother of the little girl whom he 
had placed under Mrs. Bloxam's care, and towards whom 
he had never displayed any fatherly affection beyond that 
implied by the punctual and uninterrupted discharge of the 
pecuniary obligations which he had contracted towards that 
lady, that he entertained no doubt whatever of her identity 
with Gertrude Keith. This discovery had agitated him 
less by reason of any present significance which it possessed 
— the girl was clever, and had achieved in his presence a 
success of a kind which was undeniably desirable in such a 
position as hers — than because it had touched long-silent 
chords, and touched them to utterances full of pain for the 
old man, who had been so thoroughly of the world, and 
whom the world had, on the whole, treated remarkably well. 
But Lord Sandilands was growing old, and was naturally 
beginning to yield just a little to the inevitable feeling of 
being rather tired of it all, which comes with age, to the 
best-treated among the sons of men, and had come per- 
ceptibly to him, since Mark Challoner's death had done 
away with the last of the old landmarks. Things might 
have been so different ; he had often thought so, and then 
put the thought from him hurriedly and resolutely. He 
thought so to-day, and he could not put the thought from 
him ; it would not go ; but, as he paced the room, it grew 
stronger and stronger, and came closer and closer to him, 
and at last looked him sternly and threateningly in the 
face, demanding harbour and reply; and Lord Sandilands 
gave it both — no more expelling it, but taking counsel with 
himself, and repeating to himself an old story of the past 
which, with a different ending, might have set all his present 
in another key ; — which story was not very different from 
many that have been told, and not difficult to tell. 

Lord Sandilands had not succeeded early in life to his 
old title and respectable but not magnificent estates. The 



102 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



Honourable John Borlase was much more clever, agreeable, 
and fascinating than rich, when, having left the University 
of Oxford after a very creditable career, he began to lead 
the kind of life which is ordinarily led by young men who 
have only to wait for fortune and title, and who possess 
sufficient means to fill up the interval comfortably, and 
sufficient intellect to occupy it with tolerable rationality. 
The dilettanteism which was one of Lord Sandilands' 
characteristics developed itself later in life ; while he was a 
young man, his tastes were more active, and he had devoted 
himself to sporting and travel. In the pursuit of the first 
he had made Mark Challoner's acquaintance : and the 
camaraderie of the hunting-field had strengthened into a 
strong and congenial tie of friendship, which had been 
broken only by the Squire's death. In the pursuit of the 
second, John Borlase had encountered many adventures, and 
made more than one acquaintance destined to influence his- 
future, either sensibly or insensibly ; and among the many 
was one with whom we have to do, for a brief interval of 
retrospection. 

John Borlase did not affect " Bohemianism " (the phrase 
had not then been invented, but the thing existed) ; but 
he liked character, and he liked Art, — liked it better than 
he understood it, selected the society of those who knew 
more about it than he did ; and though he by no means re- 
stricted himself to the society of artists, he certainly fre- 
quented them more than any other class. It was at Berlin 
that he fell in with Etienne Gautier, an eccentric and very 
clever Frenchman, exiled by the cruelty of fortune from 
his native paradise, Paris, and employed by the French 
Government in some mysterious commission connected with 
the Galleries of Painting and Sculpture at Berlin, — a city 
which he never ceased to depreciate, but where he never- 
theless appeared to enjoy himself thoroughly. Etienne 
Gautier was a dark, active, restless man ; vivacious of 
speech ; highly informed on all matters appertaining to Art 
a liberal in politics and religion — of a degree of liberalism 
very unusual at that period, though it would not be re- 
carded as particularly " advanced " at present ; an oddity 
in his manners ; evidently in poor circumstances, which he 
treated with that perfect absence of disguise and affecta- 
tion which is so difficult for English people to comprehend, 



MEMOllV-IIAUNTED. 103 

so impossible for them to imitate ; and devotedly, though 
injudiciously, attached to his beautiful daughter, Gertrude. 
The girl's mother, an Englishwoman, had died at her birtb, 
and her father had brought her up after a completely un- 
conventional fashion, and one which would have horrified 
his own countrymen in particular. She was allowed as 
much freedom as " bird on branch," and her education was 
of the most desultory description. Gertrude Gautier was 
very handsome, very wilful, and totally destitute of know- 
ledge of the world. She was her father's companion in all 
places and at all times ; and when the Hon. John Borlase 
made Etienne Gautier's acquaintance and took to frequenting 
his society, he found that it included that of one of the 
handsomest, cleverest, and most spirited girls he had ever 
met. John Borlase was not quite a free man when he first 
saw Gertrude Gautier. Had her position in life been such 
as to render his marrying her a wise and suitable pro- 
ceeding, he could not have offered to do so with honour, 
though the engagement, if so it could be called, which 
bound him to the Lady Lucy Beecher, was of a cool and 
vague description, and much more the doing of their re- 
spective families than their own. But he had carried the 
not unpleasant obligation cheerfully for a year or more ; 
and it was only when he fully and freely acknowledged to 
himself that he had fallen in love with Gertrude Gautier, 
and felt a delightful though embarrassing consciousness that 
she had fallen in love with him, that he grumbled at his 
engagement, and persuaded himself that but for its ex- 
istence he would certainly have married Gertrude, and 
boldly set the opinions and wishes of his family at defiance. 
It was a pleasing delusion : there never existed a man less 
likely to have done anything of the kind than John 
Borlase ; but he cherished the belief, which nothing in his 
former life tended to justify. He was a proud man in a 
totally unaffected way; and only his fancy — not for a 
moment his real practical self — regarded the possibility of 
the elevation into a future British peeress of a girl whose 
father was a painter, of the Bohemian order, and in whose 
maternal ancestry the most noteworthy "illustration" was 
a wholesale grocer. As for Gertrude, she loved him, and 
that was enough for her. The untaught, undisciplined, 
passionate girl thought of nothing beyond ; and her father, 



104 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

who was as blind as fathers usually are to the fact that his 
daughter was uo longer a child, but with all the charm and 
beauty of womanhood had entered upon all its dangers, 
gave the matter no consideration whatever. This state of 
things lasted for several months, and then came a crisis. 
Etienne Gautier fell from a height, in one of the Berlin 
galleries, and died of the injuries he had received, after 
recovering consciousness for just sufficient time to com- 
mend his daughter to the care and kindness of John 
Borlase. 

" Send her to Leamington," said the dying man ; " her 
mother's uncle lives there. She knows his name." 

There is little need to pursue the story of Gertrude 
Gautier further. She never went to Leamington ; she 
never saw the prosperous grocer, her mother's uncle. The 
story is not a new one, but at least it ended better than 
many a one like it has ended. Gertrude was happy ; she 
had no scruples ; she knew no better. She had no friends 
to forfeit ; she had no position to lose. Her lover was true 
to her, and all the more devoted that he had many stings 
of conscience of which she had no suspicion, in which she 
never shared. He brought her to England, and the girl 
was happy in her pretty suburban house, with her birds, 
her flowers, and his society. But a time came in which 
John Borlase had the chance of testing his own sincerity ; 
and he applied the test, and recognised its failure. When 
the institution of the suburban house was a year old, and 
when he had frequently congratulated himself upon the 
successful secrecy which had been maintained, John Borlase 
found a letter to his address awaiting him at his father's 
town-house. The letter was from Lady Lucy Beecher, and 
it contained the intelligence of her marriage. "I knew 
you did not care for me," said the fair and frank writer, 
" in any sense which would give us a chance of being happy 
together ; but I did not make a fuss about the family 
arrangement before it became necessary to do so. That ne- 
cessity arose when I found myself deliberately preferrinc; 
another man to you. I do so prefer Hugh "Wybrant, and I 
have married him. My people are very angry, of course — 
perhaps yours will be so also ; but you will not care much 
about that ; and I am sure you will heartily thank me for 
what I have done. "We shall always be good friends, I 



MEMORY-HAUXTED. 105 

hope ; and if we had married, we could never have been 
more, and might easily — indeed should very certainly, I am 
convinced — have been less." John Borlase was much re- 
lieved by the intelligence contained in this characteristic 
letter. Lady Lucy had troubled his mind, had been a 
difficulty to him. Under the circumstances he would not 
have married, he would not have done so doubly dis- 
honourable an action ; but he was very glad the ostensible 
breach was of her makiug and not his. He derived a 
pleasant self-congratulatory conviction that he was rather 
•a lucky fellow from this fortunate occurrence; and he 
answered Lady Lucy's flippant letter by one which was full 
of kindliness and good-humour, and accompanied by a 
set of Neapolitan coral. 

Then came the question which would make itself heard. 
Should he marry Gertrude 1 He could do so without risk 
of her antecedents being discovered ; the only odium he 
would have to bear would be that of her foreign birth and 
insignificant, indefinite origin. The girl's own feelings, 
strange to say, counted but little with John Borlase, in the 
discussion he held with himself, and which need not be 
pursued further. If he had decided in her favour, he felt 
that a first and important preliminary would be that he 
should explain to her the degradation of her present posi- 
tion, and the immense advantages to her of the compensation 
which he should offer her by marrying her. Their life would be 
changed, of coui*se; and what had such a change to give him ? 
He reasoned entirely as a man of the world ; and the upshot 
of his deliberations was that he did not marry Gertrude 
Gautier. It made no difference to her ; she did not know 
that the subject had ever occupied him ; she had never 
heard Lady Lucy's name. Her calm, happy, guilty love- 
dream went on for a little longer, and then it ended. The 
doom of her mother was on Gertrude ; and John Borlase 
came home one day, as Etienne Gautier had come home, to 
find a dead woman and a helpless infant where he had left 
youth and health and beauty in the morning. The blow- 
fell heavily upon John Borlase, and remorse as well as 
sorrow was for a long time busy at his heart. During this 
period he was extremely restless, and the world was quite 
concerned and edified to see how much he had taken Lady 
Lucy's defection to heart. Who would have thought a man 



106 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

could possess so much feeling 1 And then the generosity 
with which he acted, the pains he had taken to show how 
completely he was sans rancune ; how could Lady Lucy 
have done such a thing ! But everybody flocked to see 
Lady Lucy, for all that ; and as for Captain Wybrant, never 
was there anyone so charming. John Borlase did not hear 
all the talk, or if he did, he did not heed it. He was not a 
sentimental man, and he was sufficiently unscrupulous ; but 
Gertrude's death was more than a racking grief and loss to 
him. Alongside of her shrouded figure he saw her father's ; 
and now, too late, he was haunted by the unfulfilled trust 
bequeathed him by the dead. Deceiving himself again, he 
tried to persuade himself that only the suddenness of 
Gertrude's death had prevented his marrying her ; he tried 
to throw the blame, which he could not ignore, on circum- 
stances. At first he succeeded, to a certain extent, in 
this — succeeded sufficiently to deaden the acuteness of the 
pain he could not escape from. Then, after a time, he knew 
better ; he no longer indulged in self-deception ; he acknow- 
ledged that the wrong was irreparable, and the self- 
reproach lifelong ; and he bowed to the stern truth. John 
Borlase was never afterwards talked of as a marrying man • 
and Lady Lucy Wybrant, whose sources of social success 
were numerous and various, enjoyed that one in addition, 
that the inexorable celibacy of Lord Sandilands was ascribed 
to his chivalrous fidelity to her. She knew that this was a 
fiction, as well as he knew it ; but as it was a gleam of 
additional glorification for her, and such a supposition saved 
him a great deal of trouble, and preserved him from match- 
making mammas, each acquiesced in the view which society 
chose to adopt, with most amiable affability. Captaiu 
Wybrant laughed at the theory of Sandilands' celibacy, as 
he laughed at most other theories ; and said (and believed) 
that if a man must be fool enough to wear the willow for 
any woman, his Lucy was the best worth wearing it for, of 
all the women in the world. And though the whole thing 
was a myth, Lord Sandilands never cordially liked jolly 
Hugh Wybrant — perhaps no man ever yet did cordially 
like the individual in whose favour he had been jilted, 
though he may not have cared a straw for the fickle fair 
one, but have honestly regarded her inconstancy as a 
delightful circumstance, demanding ardent gratitude. 



MEMORY- HAUNTED. 107 

For several years after Gertrude Gautier's death, the 
Hon. John Borlase indulged in frequent and extensive 
foreign travel ; and during this period the infant girl, who 
had inherited her beauty, apparently without her delicacy 
of constitution, was well cared for. The child's father cared 
little for her, beyond scrupulously providing for her 
physical welfare. She was an embodied reproach to him, 
though he never said so to himself, but persuaded himself 
his indifference to the little girl whom he saw but rarely 
and at long intervals, arose from his not naturally caring 
about children. When she was eight years old, and the 
memory of her mother had almost died out, though the 
indelible effect of the sad and guilty episode in his life with 
which she was connected remained impressed upon him, 
Lord Sandilands placed the little girl under Mrs. Bloxam's 
care, with the conditions already stated, and the results 
already partially developed. He had provided ample funds 
to meet the exigencies of her education ; he had made due 
arrangements for their safe and punctual transmission to 
Mrs. Bloxam ; he had but vague notions concerning the- 
requirements and the risks of girlhood : his dominant idea 
was, that in a respectable boarding-school the girl must be- 
safe ; he did not want to see her ; she must not know 
him as her father ; and he had no fancy for playing any 
part, undertaking any personation — in short, having any 
trouble unrepresented by money — about her. John Borlase- 
had been unscrupulous, and a trifle hard in his nature ; and 
despite the conflict in his breast which had ensued on 
Gertrude Gautier's death, and which for all his impassive 
bearing had been fierce and long, Lord Sandilands was not 
much more scrupulous, and was decidedly harder. If the 
girl married or if she died, he should be made acquainted 
with the circumstance ; and as a matter of fact — fact, not 
sentiment, being the real consideration in this matter — 
either was all he need know. As time went on, this frame 
of mind about his unknown daughter became habitual to 
Lord Sandilands ; and of late he had never remembered 
Gertrude's existence, except when an entry in his accounts, 
under a certain appointed formula, recalled the fact to his 
mind. 

These were the circumstances on which Lord Sandilands 
mused, as he paced his room in the early morning, after he 



108 THE KOCK AHEAD. 

had seen Grace Lambert at Lady Carabas's concert. The 
girl's face had risen np before him like a ghost — not only 
her mother's, but that of his own youth ; and in the proud, 
assured, but not bold glance of her splendid brown eyes a 
story which had no successor in the old man's lonely life 
was written. This beautiful, gifted girl was his daughter. 
She might have been the pride of his life, the darling, the 
ornament of his home, the light of his declining years, the 
inheritor of his fortune, if — if he had done right instead of 
wrong, if he had repaired the injury he had done to her, 
whose grave lay henceforth and for ever between him and 
the possibility of reparation. 

" How very handsome she is ! " he thought ; " and how 
fine and highly cultivated her voice ! If I had known she 
possessed such a talent as that ! " And then he thought 
how that talent might have been displayed in society, in 
"which the possessor might have mixed on equal terms. A 
long train of images and fancies, of vain and bitter regrets, 
came up with the strong impression of the girl's grace, 
beauty, and gifts. Of her identity there could be no doubt. 
As Gertrude Gautier had looked out from the garden-gate, 
where she had bidden him the fond and smiling farewell 
destined to be their last, so this girl, as beautiful as his lost 
'Gertrude, and with something of grandeur in her look, 
which Gertrude had not, and which was the grace added by 
genius, had looked that night, as she calmly, smilingly 
'received the applause of her audience. As he recalled that 
look, and dwelt on it in his memory with the full assurance 
that his conviction was correct, an idea struck him. He 
was a known connoisseur in music, a known patron of 
musical art ; everyone who was anyone in the musical world 
sought an introduction to Lord Sandilands. In the case of 
Miss Grace Lambert, his generally extended patronage had 
been especially requested by Lady Carabas for her protegee. 
Here was a fair and legitimate expedient within his reach 
for securing access to Miss Lambert, without the slightest 
risk of awakening suspicion, either in her mind or in that 
•of sharp-sighted observers, that he was actuated by any 
particular motive in this instance. He must see her, he 
must know her ! How bitterly he lamented now, and con- 
demned himself for the indifference which had kept him for so 
many years contented that his child should be a stranger to 



Lloyd's luck. 109 

him ! How ready he was, now that he saw her beautiful 
and gifted, to accord credence and attention to the 
voice of nature, in which he had never before believed, 
and which under other circumstances would have found him 
just as deaf as usual ! Then he resolved that he would 
write to Mrs. Bloxam, and prepare her for a long-deferred 
visit to her charge, stipulating in his letter that Gertrude 
should know nothing of the intended visit, and that Mrs. 
Bloxam should receive him alone. " She shall tell me my 
child's history," he said ; " at least j£ has been a bright and 
happy story hitherto." And Lord Sandilands sighed, and 
his face looked old and worn, as he arranged his note-paper, 
and dipped his pen in the ink, and then hesitated and 
pondered long before he commenced his letter to Mrs. 
Bloxam. 

The letter consisted of but a few lines, and Lord Sandi- 
lands put it in another cover, addressed to Mr. Plowden,. 
his solicitor, and the medium of his payments to Mrs. 
Bloxam. It was not until he had retired to rest, after sun- 
rise, and had been for some time vainly trying to sleep, that 
his thoughts reverted to Miles Challoner and the incident 
which had taken place just before they parted. 

Miles Challoner, also wakeful, was thinking of it too, and 
debating with himself whether he should mention the 
matter again to Lord Sandilands. He shrank from reviving a 
subject so full of pain. The man whom he had met evidently 
had an object in concealing his identity, or he would not have 
been so reticent by a first impulse. They were not likely 
to meet again. So Miles Challoner took a resolution to 
keep his own counsel ; and acted upon it. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Lloyd's luck. 

WE have found Gilbert Lloyd the centre of an amused 
circle at Carabas House. Let us see what has been 
his career since he parted with his wife at the George Inn 
at Brighton. 

He was free ! That was his first thought when he began 



110 t:ie kock ahead. 

to ponder over the probable results of the step he had 
taken, — free to come and go as he liked, to do as he listed, 
without the chance of incurring black looks or reproaches. 
Not that he had had either from Gertrude for a very long 
time. When her faith in her husband was first shattered ; 
when she first begun to perceive that the man whom in her 
girlish fancy she had regarded as a hero of romance — a 
creature bright, glorious, and rare — was formed of very 
ordinary clay, Gertrude was vexed and annoyed by the 
discovery. She was young, too, and had a young woman's 
belief in the efficacy of tears and sulks ; so that when Gil- 
bert stayed out late, or brought home companions to whom 
she objected, or went away on business tours for several 
days together, Gertrude at first met him with sharp 
reproaches, dissolving into passionate fits of weeping, or 
varied with sufficiently feeble attempts at dignity. But 
Gilbert laughed these ]ast to scorn, and either took no 
notice of the reproaches, or with an oath bade them cease. 
And then, the glamour having utterly died out, and the 
selfishness and brutality of her husband being fully known 
to her, Gertrude's manner had entirely changed. No sighs 
were ever heard by Gilbert Lloyd, no red eyelids, no cheeks 
swollen by traces of recent tears were ever seen by him. 
If the cold cynical expression on his wife's face had not been 
sufficient, the bitter mocking tones of her voice never failed 
to tell him of the contempt she felt for him. That she was 
no longer his dupe ; that she bitterly despised herself for 
ever having been fooled by him ; that she had gauged the 
depth of his knavery and the shallowness of his pretensions 
• — all this was recognizable in her every look, in her every 
word. No brutality on her husband's part — and his bru- 
tality sometimes found other vent than language — no 
intermittent fits of softness towards her, such as would 
occasionally come over him, had the smallest effect on her 
face or on her voice. She bore his blows silently, his 
caresses shudderingly, and when they were over she looked 
up at him with the cold cynical face, and replied to him 
with the bitter mocking voice. 

Gilbert Lloyd's friends — by which expression is meant 
the men of the set in which he regularly lived — saw little 
of Mrs. Lloyd, who was popularly supposed by them to be 
next to a nonentity, Lloyd being a man who "always had 



Lloyd's luck. Ill 

his own way." And, indeed, so far as those words were 
ordinarily understood, Gilbert Lloyd's acquaintances were 
right. For months and months his comings and goings, 
his long absences, his conduct while at home, had been 
uncommented upon by Gertrude, save in the expression of 
her face and in the tone of her voice. But these, even at 
such rare intervals as he was subjected to them, were quite 
enough to goad a man of his temperament, by nature irri- 
table, and rendered doubly petulant by the exciting life he led; 
and the knowledge that he was free from them for ever came 
to him with immense relief. He was " on his own hook " 
jiow, and had the world before him as much as he had 
before he committed the ridiculous error of letting his 
passion get the better of his prudence, and so binding a 
burden on to his back. A burden ! yes, she had been a 
burden — a useless, helpless dead-weight — even when his 
fleeting passion for her began to wane, he had hopes that 
after all he had not done such a bad thing in marrying her. 
To a man who looked for his prey amongst the young and 
inexperienced, a pretty woman would always prove a useful 
assistant ; and Gilbert Lloyd at one time thought of using 
his wife as a lure and a bait. But any hopes of this nature 
which he may have entertained were speedily uprooted. 
•" Bight-thinking " Gertrude Lloyd certainly was not ; of 
mental obliquity in the matter of distinguishing between 
good and evil, she had her full share ; but she was as proud 
as Lucifer, and her pride stepped in to her aid where better 
qualities might not have interfered. Her natural quickness 
enabled her at once to see through her husband's designs, 
and she told him plainly and promptly that he must seek 
elsewhere for a confederate ; nay more, when Lloyd would 
have insisted on her presiding at his table, and making her- 
self agreeable to his friends, her resistance, hitherto passive, 
became active ; she threatened to make known some of his 
proceedings, which would have seriously compromised him 
in the eyes of persons with whom he wished to stand well ; 
and neither entreaties nor commands could alter her 
resolution. 

She had been a burden, and he was rid of her. The 
more he thought it over the more he congratulated himself 
on the step which he had taken, and felt that he had the 
best of the arrangement just concluded. He had never 



112 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

loved any one ; and the caprice, for it was nothing more, 
which he had once felt for Gertrude, had long since died 
away. He was free now to pursue his own career, and he 
determined that his future should be brighter and more 
ambitious than he had hitherto hoped. Now was his 
chance, and he would take advantage of it. Heretofore he 
had lived almost entirely in the society of the Ring-men — 
among them, but not of them — despising his associates, and 
using them merely as a means to an end. He had had more 
than enough of such companionship, and would shake it off 
for ever. Not that Gilbert Lloyd intended quitting the 
turf and giving up his career as a betting-man. Such a 
thought never occurred to him ; he knew no other way by 
which he could so easily earn so much money, while its 
Bohemianism, and even its chicanery, were by no means 
unpleasant ingredients to his fallen nature. All he wished 
was to take higher rank, and live with a different section of 
the fraternity. There were betting-men and betting-men ; 
and Gilbert Lloyd knew that his birth and education fitted 
him more for the society of the " swells " who looked 
languidly on from the tops of drags, or moved quietly about 
the King, than for the companionship of the professionals 
and welchers who drove what was literally a " roaring " 
trade outside the enclosure. There was, moreover, con- 
siderably more money to be made amongst the former than 
the latter. Opportunity alone had been wanting ; now he 
thought that had come, and Gilbert Lloyd determined on 
trying his luck, and going for a great coup. 

He had a hundred pounds in hand and a capital book 
for Doncaster, so he made up his mind to leave the last to 
the manipulation of an intimate friend, who would watch 
the alterations in the market, and report them to him at 
Baden, whither he started at once. Here he established 
himself in a pleasant little bedchamber in the bachelor's 
wing of the Badischer Hof, and proceeded to commence 
operations. The language, the appearance, the manners of 
the regular turfite he at once discarded, though an occa- 
sional hint dropped in conversation at the table d'hdte or in 
the Kursaal, at both of which places he soon made many 
promiscuous acquaintances, conveyed a notion that the 
arcana of the Bing were, or had been, sufficiently familiar 
to him. At the tables he played nightly, with varying 



Lloyd's luck. 113 

fortune it was thought, though those who watched him 
closely averred that he was a considerable winner. His 
pecuniary success, however, affected him very slightly ; he 
was glad, of course, to have been able to live luxuriously 
duriug a month, and to leave the place with more money 
than he took into it ; but Gilbert Lloyd had done far better 
than merely winning a few hundred louis — he had made his 
coup. 

He made it thus. Staying at the Badischer Hof was the 
Earl of Ticehurst, a young EtDglish nobleman who had 
recently succeeded to his title and estate, and who, during 
the previous year, had caused a great deal of talk in London. 
He was a big, heavy-looking young man, with a huge jowl 
and a bull neck, coarse features, and small sunken eyes. At 
Eton he had been principally noticeable for his cruelty to 
animals and his power of beer-drinking. At Oxford these 
charming qualities were more freely developed, but whereas 
they had been called by their proper names by Viscount 
Etchingham's school-fellows, they became known as " high 
spirits " to the college dons and the tuft-hunting tutors. 
It is probable, however, that even these long-suffering in- 
dividuals would have had to take notice of his lordship's 
vivacious proceedings, had not bis father died during his 
first year of residence ; and on succeeding to the earldom 
of Ticehurst, Lord Etchingham at once left the University 
and entered upon London life. This means different things 
to different people. To the nobleman just interred in the 
family vault at Etchingham, in the presence of the Premier 
and half the Cabinet, it had signified the commencement of 
a brilliant political career. To his son, who had succeeded 
him, it meant the acquisition of a stud of racers, the 
sovereignty of the coffee-room at Rummer's, the well-known 
sporting hotel, and the obsequious homage of some of the 
greatest scoundrels in London. The young man delighted 
in his position, and felt that he had really come into his 
kingdom. His name was in every one's mouth, and people 
who scarcely could distinguish a racer from a towel-horse 
had heard of young Lord Ticehurst. The names of the 
horses which he owned were familiar in the mouths of the 
most general of the " general public," the amount of the 
bets which he won or lost was talked of in all classes of 
society, and by the "sporting world" he way looked upon 

i 



114 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

as the great revivalist of those pastimes which are always 
described by the epithets "old" and "British." The 
fighting of mains of cocks, the drawing of badgers, the 
patronage of the rat-pit and the P.P.. (" that glorious insti- 
tution which, while it exists among us and is fostered by 
the genial support of such true Corinthians as the E — of 
T — , will prevent Englishmen from having recourse to the 
dastardly use of the knife," as it was prettily described by 
Snish, the fistic reporter of the Life), the frequent fuddling 
of himself with ardent spirits, the constant attendance at 
night-saloons, and the never going home till morning — 
came into this category. Elderly Haymarket publicans and 
night-cabmen began to think that the glorious days of their 
youth had returned, when they witnessed or listened to the 
pranks of Lord Ticehurst ; and in his first London season 
he had established a reputation for gentlemanly black- 
guardism and dare-devilry quite equal to any in the records 
of the Bow- street Police-court. 

Needless to say that with Lord Ticehurst's reputation 
Gilbert Lloyd was perfectly familiar, and that he had long 
and ardently desired the opportunity of making the ac- 
quaintance of that distinguished nobleman. To use his own 
language, he had " done all he knew " to carry out this 
desirable result ; but in vain. There are hawks and hawks ; 
and the birds of prey who hovered round Lord Ticehurst 
were far too clever and too hungry to allow any of the in- 
ferior kind to interfere with their spoil. Not that Gilbert 
Lloyd was inferior in any sense, save that of mixing with 
an inferior class. Lord Ticehurst knew several men of 
Lloyd's set — knew them sufficiently to speak to them in a. 
manner varying from the de haut en has style which he 
used to his valet to the vulgar familiarity with which he 
addressed his trainer ; but it would not have suited Gilbert 
Lloyd to have been thrown in his way, and he had care- 
fully avoided being presented or becoming known to Lord 
Ticehurst in an inferior position. 

When Gilbert arrived at the Badischer Hof, the first 
person he saw at the late table d'hdte was Lord Ticehurst ; the 
second was Plater Dobbs, who acted as his lordship's hench- 
man, Mentor, and confidential upper servant. A stout 
short man, Plater Dobbs (his real name was George, and he 
was supposed once to have been a major in something, the 



Lloyd's luck. 115 

nickname " Plater " attaching to him from the quality of 
the racehorses he bred and backed), with a red face, the 
blood strangled into it by his tight bird's-eye choker, a 
moist eye, a pendulous under lip, a short gray whisker and 
stubbly moustache of the same colour, a bell-shaped curly- 
brimmed hat, and a wonderful vocabulary of oaths. Plater 
Dobbs was one of the old school in everything — one of the 
hard-drinking, hard-riding, hard-swearing, five-o'clock-in-the- 
morning old boys. A sportsman of the old school, with 
many recollections of Pea-green Hayne, and Colonel 
Berkeley, and the Golden Ball, and other lights of other 
clays ; a godless abandoned old profligate, illiterate and 
debauched, but with a certain old-fashioned knowledge 
of horse-flesh, an unlimited power of drinking without 
being harmed by what he drank, and a belief in and an 
adherence to "the code of honour" as then understood 
amongst gentlemen, as he had proved in person on various 
occasions at home and abroad. He had taken entire sway 
over Lord Ticehurst, bought racers with the young noble- 
man's money, and trained and ran them when he chose ; 
went with him everywhere ; and was alternately his Mentor 
and his butt — acting in either capacity with the greatest 
equanimity. 

Now, above all other men in the world, Lloyd hated 
Plater Dobbs. He had long envied the position which the 
'• vulgar old cad," as he called him, had held in regard to 
Lord Ticehurst ; and when he saw them together at Baden, 
his rage was extreme, and a desire to supplant the elderly 
Mentor at once rose in his breast. Not that Gilbert had 
any feeling that the counsels or the example given and 
shown to Lord Ticehurst by Plater Dobbs were wrong or 
immoral. All he felt about them was that they were rococo, 
old-fashioned, and behind the mark of the present day. 
The appointment of " confederate " to such a man as 
Ticehurst, was one of the most splendid chances of a life- 
time ; and it had now fallen to the lot of a senile debauchee, 
who was neither doing good for himself nor obtaining credit 
for his pupil. If Ticehurst were only in his hands, what 
would not Gilbert Lloyd do for him and for himself? 
Ticehurst should be in his hands, but how ? That was the 
problem which Lloyd set himself to solve. That was the 
thought which haunted him day and night, which dulled 



116 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

his palate to M. Rheinbolt's choicest plats, which even made 
him sometimes inattentive to the monotonous cry of the 
croupiers. To secure Plater Dobbs' position would be to 
land a greater stake than could be gained by the most un- 
expected fluke at trente et quarante. Let him only hook 
Ticehurst, and rien ne va plus ! 

An ordinary sharper would have taken advantage of 
the frequent opportunities afforded by the table d'hote and 
continental life, generally, have spoken to Lord Ticehurst, 
and managed to secure a speaking acquaintanceship with 
him. But Gilbert Lloyd was not an ordinary sharper, and 
he saw clearly enough how little that course would tend to 
the end he had in view. He foresaw that Plater Dobbs' 
jealousy would be at once aroused ; and that while the ac- 
quaintance with the bear was ripening, the bear-leader 
would have ample opportunity of vilifying his would-be 
rival. He put it to himself clearly that success was only 
to be gained by adventitious chance, and that chance came 
thus. 

Among the frequenters of the Kursaal was a French 
gentleman of some thirty-five years of age, black-bearded, 
bright-eyed, and thin-waisted. Andre" de Prailles was this 
gentleman's name, Paris was his nation, and, to carry out 
the old rhyme, the degradation of England and her children 
was apparently his vocation. In private and in public he 
took every opportunity of saying unpleasant things about 
la jierfide Albion, and the traitors, native and domiciled, 
nourished by her. He had, for a Frenchman, an extraordi- 
nary knowledge of English ways and manners of life — of life 
of a certain kind — which he amused himself and certain of 
his immediate friends by turning into the greatest ridicule. 
He played but little at the tables ; indeed, those who had 
watched him narrowly avowed that there was a certain 
understanding between him and the croupiers, who dis- 
couraged his attendance; but be this as it might, he 
frequented the promenade and the baths, lived in very fair 
style at the Hotel Victoria, and was a " feature " in the 
society of the place. M. de Prailles' Anglophobia had con- 
tented itself with disdainful glances at the representatives of 
the land which he detested, and with muttering with bated 
breath at all they said and did, until the arrival at Baden of 
Mdlle. de Meronville, the celebrated ingenue of the Vaude- 



Lloyd's luck. 117 

ville, with whom M. de Prailles had an acquaintance, and 
for whom he professed an adoration. 

Mdlle. de Meronville was a bright lithe little woman, 
with large black eyes, an olive complexion, and what Lord 
Ticehurst called a " fuzzy" head of jet-black hair ; a pleasant 
good-natured little woman, fond of admiration and bonbons 
and good dinners and plenty of champagne ; a little woman 
who played constantly at the tables, screaming with delight 
when she won, and using " strange oaths " when she lost — 
who smoked cigarettes on the promenade, and gesticulated 
wildly, and beat her companions with her parasol, and, in 
fact, behaved herself as unlike a British female as is possible 
to be imagined. Perhaps it was the entire novelty of her 
style and conduct that gave her such a charm in the eyes 
of Lord Ticehurst, for charm she undoubtedly had. A 
devotion to the opposite sex had never hitherto been classed 
among the weaknesses of that amiable nobleman ; but he 
was so completely overcome by the fascinations of Eugenie 
de Meronville, that no youth ever suffered more severely 
from " calf-love " than this reckless roisterer. He followed 
her about like her shadow ; when in her company, after he 
had obtained an introduction to her, he would address to her 
the most flowery compliments in a curious melange of 
tongues ■ and when absent from her he would sit and puff 
Lis cigar in moody silence, obstinately rejecting all efforts to 
withdraw him from his sentimental abstraction. Plater 
Dobbs regarded this new phase in his pupil's character with 
unspeakable horror, and was at his wits' end to know how 
to put a stop to it. He endeavoured to lead Lord Ticelnu - st 
into deeper play ; but unless Mdlle. de Meronville were at 
the tables the young man would not go near them. He 
organized a little supper-party, at which were present two 
newly-arrived and most distinguished beauties : an English 
grass-widow whose husband was in India, and a Russian 
lady, who regarded the fact of her liege lord's being ruined, 
and sinking from a position of affluence into that of a hotel- 
keeper, as quite enough to excuse her leaving him for ever. 
But Ticehurst sulked through the banquet, and the ladies 
agreed in voting him bete and mauvais ton. The fact was 
that the man was madly in love with Eugenie de Meronville, 
and cared for nothing but her society. 

What one does and where one "oes and with whom one- 



118 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

passes one's time is, of course, very easily known in a small 
coterie such as that assembled in the autumn at Baden ; and 
it is not to be wondered at that M. Andre" de Prailles 
suffered many a bad quarter of an hour as he witnessed and 
heard of the amicable relations between his fair compatriot 
and one of the leading representatives of that nation which 
he detested. What added to M. de Prailles' anger was the 
fact that whereas in Paris, where he was known to be the 
friend of certain feuilletonistes with whom it was well for 
every actress to be on good terms, he had had cause for 
believing himself to be well thought of by the ingenue of the 
Vaudeville, at Baden, where no such inducement existed, he 
had been completely snubbed by Eug6uie, and treated with 
a hauteur which set his blood boiling in his veins. M. de 
Prailles resented this after his own fashion. First, he ad- 
dressed a passionate letter to his idol, reproaching her for 
her perfidy. To this he received a very short, and, to tell 
truth, a very ill-spelt answer, in which the goddess replied 
that it was not his "a/air," and that she would behave her- 
self " comejevoulai" wheresoever and with whomsoever she 
pleased. Then he took to a more open course of defiance — 
following on the trail of Mdlle. de Meronville and Lord 
Ticehurst, standing behind them at the table, occupying 
adjacent seats to theirs in the Kursaal or on the promenade, 
and enunciating, in by no means a hushed voice, his opinion 
on Englishmen in general and Lord Ticehurst in particular. 
But Lord Ticehurst's comprehension of the French lan- 
guage was limited, his comprehension of the English lan- 
guage, as spoken by M. de Prailles, was still more limited ; 
and the strongest comment with which he favoured his 
opponent's ravings was a muttered inquiry as to what " that 
d — d little Frenchman was jabbering about." 

At last, one night, the long-threatened explosion took 
place. A sudden storm of wind and rain swept down from 
the Black Forest, and the curious vehicle attached to the 
HStel d'Angleterre was sent for to convey Mdlle. de 
Meronville from the Kursaal to her rooms. The little 
actress had been playing with great ill-luck, and had been 
duly waited upon by Lord Ticehurst ; but at the moment 
when the arrival of the droschky was notified to her, he had 
been called into another part of the room by Plater Dobbs, 
and only arrived in time to see her, mortified and angry, 



Lloyd's luck. 119 

being conducted to the carriage on the arm of M. do 
Prailles. Rushing forward to make his excuses, Lord 
Ti ''(.'hurst caught his foot in the train of Mdlle. de Meron- 
ville's gown, and, amid a suppressed burst of laughter from 
'he bystanders, pulled her backwards and fell forward 
himself. He had scarcely recovered himself when the roll 
of the departing vehicle was in his ears, and M. de Prailles 
was standing before him fuming. 

" An accident ? nothing of the sort ! Expres ! lout ct 
fait expres ! " 

A crowd gathered at the ominous words and at the tone 
of voice in which they were uttered : Plater Dobbs and 
Gilbert Lloyd foremost among the concurrents, the one 
ilushed and excited, the other cool and collected ; Lord 
Ticehurst, very pale, and with an odd twitching in the 
muscles of his mouth. 

" It was no accident, that tumble ! " shrieked M. de 
Prailles. " It was a studied insult offered to a lady by a 
barbarian ! Expres, entendez-vous, messieurs, expres ? " 

Then, seeing that his opponent stood motionless, the little 
Frenchman drew himself on tiptoes, and hissed out, 

" Et il ne dit rien ? Decidement, rnilor, vous etes un 
(dche ! " and he made a movement as though he would have 
struck Lord Ticehurst with his open hand. 

But Plater Dobbs, who had been puffing and fuming and 
grasping for breath, caught the angry Frenchman by the 
arm, and called out, 

" Holla, none of that ! "We'll produce our man when 
he's wanted. "We don't want any rough-and-tumble here ! 
Ally, party, mossoo !" 

" Au diable, ivrogne !" was all the response which M. de 
Prailles chose to make to this elegant appeal ; but he 
turned to some of his compatriots, and said, " Regardez done 
la figure de ce milor la ! " And in truth Lord Ticehurst 
■ as almost livid, and the chair against which he was 
Waning trembled in his grasp. At that moment Gilbert 
Lloyd stepped forward. 

■' There's no question of producing any man on this 
occasion, except a gensdarme" said he, addressing Plata 
L'o'ubs. 

A hush fell on the little crowd — the Englishmen silenced 
\iy ^,vhat they heard, the foreigners by the effect which they 



120 



THE KOCK AHEAD. 



wuv the words had produced. Only Dobbs spoke, and he 
said, " What the devil do you mean ? " 

"What I say," replied Lloyd ; "it's impossible for Lord 
Ticehurst to fight this fellow," with a contemptuous wave 
of the hand at De Prailles. " I've long thought I recog- 
nised him ; now I'm sure of it. I don't know what he calls 
himself now, but he used to answer to the name of Louis 
three years ago, when he was a billiard-marker at the rooms 
over the Tennis Court, just out of the Haymarket." 

_ " Tu mens, canaille ! " screamed M. de Prailles, rushing at 
him ; but Gilbert Lloyd caught his adversary by the throat, 
and with every nerve in his lithe frame strung to its 
tightest pitch, shook him to and fro. 

" Drop that ! " he said ; " drop that, or by the Lord I'll 
fling you out of the window ! You know the height you'd 
have to fall ! " and with one parting shake he threw the 
Frenchman from him. " I'm glad my memory served me 
so well ; it would have been impossible for your lordship to 
have gone out with such a fellow." 

M. Andre de Prailles left Baden very early the next 
morning, but the events of that night affected more than 
him. Although he was not of a grateful or recognisant 
nature, Lord Ticehurst felt keenly the material assistance 
which Gilbert Lloyd afforded him at what, in his inmost 
heart, his lordship knew to have been a most critical and 
unpleasant time, and he showed at once that he appreciated 
this assistance at its proper value. He made immediate 
advances of friendship to Gilbert, which advances Gilbert 
received with sufficient nonchalance to cause them to be 
repeated with double ardour. At the same time he by no 
means declined the acquaintance which Lord Ticehurst 
offered him, and in the course of various colloquies contrived 
to indoctrinate bis lordship with a notion of his extraordinary 
'cuteness in things in general, and in matters pertaining to 
the turf and to society in particular. The world, as viewed 
through Gilbert Lloyd's glasses, had to Lord Ticehurst quite 
a different aspect from that under which he had hitherto 
seen it ; and he raged against opportunities missed and 
stupid courses taken while under the tutelage of Plater 
Dobbs. To rid himself of that worthy's companionship and 
to instal Gilbert Lloyd in his place, was a task which Lord 



Lloyd's luck. 121 

Ticehurst set himself at once, and carried out with great 
speed and success. He found little opposition from the 
Plater. That worldly-wise old person had seen how matters 
stood — " how the cat jumped," as he phrased it — from the 
first, and was perfectly prepared to receive his conge. Nor, 
indeed, was he altogether displeased at the arrangement. 
His good qualities were few enough ; but among them was 
the possession of personal pluck and courage, and a horror 
of any one in whom these were lacking. " I always knew 
Etchingham was a duffer, sir," he would say in after-days — 
" a pig-headed, obstinate, mean duffer — but I never thought 
he was a cur until that night. He was in a blue funk, I 
tell you — in a blue funk of a d — d little Frenchman that he 
could have swallowed whole ! I don't complain, sir. He 
hasn't behaved badly to me, and I hope he'll find he's done- 
right in holding on to Master Lloyd. A devilish slippery 
customer that, sir. But him and me couldn't have been the 
same after I saw he funked that Frenchman, and so perhaps 
it's better as it is." So Major Plater Dobbs retired on an 
allowance of three hundred a year from his ex-pupil to the 
cheerful city of York, and this history knows him no 
more. 

When Gilbert Lloyd returned to England in time to 
accompany his patron to Doncaster, where they witnessed 
the shameful defeat of all Lord Ticehurst's horses, which 
had been trained under the Dobbs' regime, he felt that h& 
had made his coup ; but he did not anticipate such success 
as fell to his lot. By an excellent system of tactics, the 
mainspring of which was to make himself sought instead of 
to seek, and to speak his mind unreservedly upon all points 
on which he was consulted, taking care never to interfere in 
cases where his opinion was not asked, he obtained a com- 
plete ascendancy over the young man, who, after a very 
short time, made him overseer, not merely of his stable, but 
of his house, his establishment, and his estates. And excel- 
lently did Lloyd perform the functions then allotted to him. 
He had a clear head for business, and a keen eye for " a 
good thing ; " and as a large portion of all Lord Ticehurst's 
luck and success was shared by his " confederate," it was 
not surprising that Lloyd employed his time and brains in 
planning and achieving successes. Not a little of his good 



a 



122 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

fortune Lloyd owed to keeping in with his former allies the 
King-men, who were treated by him with a frank cordiality 
which stood him in excellent stead, and who were delighted 
to find that one of their own order, as they judged him, 
could climb to such a height without becoming stuck-up or 
spiteful. The old trainer, the jockeys, and all the Dobbs' 
satellites were swept away as soon as Gilbert Lloyd came 
into power, and were so well replaced that Lord Ticehurst's 
stud, which had previously been the laughing-stock of 
Tattersall's, now contained several animals of excellent 
repute, and one or two from which the greatest things were 
expected. 

Nor was the change less remarkable in Lord Ticehurst 
himself. Of course his new Mentor would have lacked the 
inclination, even if he had had the power, to withdraw his 
pupil from turf-life ; but to a certain extent he made him 
understand the meaning and the value of the saying, 
" Noblesse oblige." It was understood that henceforward 
Lord Ticehurst's horses were run " on the square," and that 
there was to be no more "pulling," or "roping," or any 
other chicanery. And after a good deal of patience and 
persuasion, Gilbert Lloyd succeeded in indoctrinating his 
patron with the notion that it was scarcely worth while 
keeping up the reputation of being " British " with a small 
portion of the community at the expense of disgusting all 
the rest ; that if one had no original taste in the matter of 
costume, and needs must copy some one else, there were 
styles not simpler, perhaps, but at all events as becoming as 
those of the groom ; and that all the literary homage of the 
Life scarcely repaid a gentleman for having to associate 
with such blackguards as he met in his patronage of the 
prize-ring, the cock-pit, and the rat-hunt. The young man, 
who being young was impressionable, was brought to see 
the force of these various arguments ; more easily, doubtless, 
because they were put to him in a remarkably skilful way, 
without dictation and without deference — simply as the 
suggestions of a man of the world to another worldling, the 
force of which he, from his worldly knowledge, would 
perfectly understand and appreciate. And so, within a 
year after submitting himself to Gilbert Lloyd's tutelage, 
Lord Ticehurst, who had been universally regarded as a 
" cub " and a " tiger," was admitted to be a " doosid good 



LLOYDS LUCK. 116 

fellow," and his friends laid all the improvement to Gilbert 
Lloyd. 

Amongst those friends, perhaps the warmest of Lloyd's 
supporters was Lord Ticehurst's aunt, Lady Carabas. Lady 
Oai-abas had always delighted to have it thought that she 
was afemme incomprise ; that while she was looked upon as 
the mere worldling, the mere butterfly of fashion, she had a 
soul — not the immortal part of her system which she took 
notice of once a week in St. Barnabas's Church, but such a 
soul as poets and metaphysical writers spell with a large S, 
— a Soul for poetry, romance, love, and all those other things 
which are never heard of in polite neighbourhoods. The 
Marquis of Carabas was quite unaware of the existence 
of this portion of his wife's attributes, and if he had known 
of it, it is probable it would have made very little difference 
to him : it was nothing to eat, nothing to be shot at or 
angled for, at least with a gun or a rod, so had no interest 
for his lordship. But there was always some one suffi- 
ciently intimate with Lady Carabas to be intrusted with the 
secret of the existence of this Soul, and to be permitted to 
share in its aspirations. Lady Carabas had married very 
■early in life, and although she had two large and whiskered 
fions, she was yet a remarkably handsome woman ; so hand- 
some, so genial, and so winning, that there were few men 
who would not have been gratified by her notice. And 
here let it be said, that all her friendships — she had many, 
though never more than one at the same time — were per- 
fectly platonic in their nature. She pined to be understood 
— she wanted nothing else, she said ; but people remarked 
that those whom she allowed to understand her were always 
distinguished either by rank, good looks, or intellect. The 
immediate predecessor of Gilbert Lloyd in dominion over 
Lady Carabas' Soul, was an Italian singer with a straight 
nose, a curling brown beard, and a pair of luminous gray 
eyes ; and he in his turn had supplanted a Prince of the 
Blood. Gilbert Lloyd was prime favourite now, and was 
treated accordingly by the " regulars" in Beaumanoir-square. 
It was Lady Carabas' boast that she could be " all things to 
all men." Thus while her Soul had gushed with the regal 
romance of Arthur and Guinevere in its outpourings to the 
Prince — an honest gentleman of limited intellect and con- 
versation restricted to the utterance of an occasional " Hum, 



124 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

haw, Jove ! " — it had burned with republican ai'dour in its 
conference with the exiled Italian ; and was now imbued 
with the spirit of Ruff, Bell, Bailey, and other leading turf- 
guides, in its lighter dalliance with Gilbert Lloyd. And 
this kind of thing suited Lloyd very well, and tended to 
secure his position with Lord Ticehurst. 

At the time of Gilbert Lloyd's introduction to Miles 
Challoner at Carabas House, that position was settled and 
secured. Not merely was Lord Ticehurst, to all appearance, 
utterly dependent on his Mentor for aid and advice in every 
action of his life, but Lloyd's supremacy in the Ticehurst 
household was recognised and acquiesced in by all friends 
and members of the family. It was so recognised, so appa- 
rently secure, and withal so pleasant, that Lloyd had put 
aside any doubt of the possibility of its ever being done away 
with ; and the first idea of such a catastrophe came to him 
as the old name, so long unheard, sounded once more in his 
ears, and as in the handsome man before him he recognised 
his elder brother. Miles Challoner, as we have seen, sought 
safety in flight. Gilbert Lloyd, the younger man, but by far 
the older worldling, soon recovered from his temporary dis- 
quietude, so far as his looks were concerned, and gazed after 
the vanishing figure of his brother with eyebrows uplifted 
in apparent wonderment at his gaucherie. But in the soli- 
tude of his chamber, before he went to bed that morning, 
he faced the subject manfully, and thought it out under all 
its various aspects. 

Would Miles betray him ? That was the chief point. 
The blood surged up in his pale face, and the beating of his 
heart was plainly audible to himself as he thought of that 
contingency, and foresaw the unalterable and immediate 
result. Exposure ! proved to have been living for years 
under an assumed name and in a false position — A slight 
ray of hope here. The real name and the real position were 
incomparably better than those he had assumed. Had he 
not rather lost than gained by — Dashed out at once 1 Why 
did he hide his name and position 1 Forced to. Why ? 
O, that story must never be given up, or he would be lost 
indeed. And then his thoughts digressed, and he found 
himself picturing in his memory that last night in the old 
house — that farewell of Rowley Court. Good God ! how 
he recollected it all ! — the drive in the dog-cart thx-ough the- 



Lloyd's luck. V2C> 

long lanes redolent of May ; the puzzled face of the old 
coachman, who knew young Master was going away, and yet 
could not make out why old Master, and Master Miles, and 
the household had not turned out to wish him " God speed ;" 
the last glimpse which, as he stood at the station-door, he 
caught of the dog-cart thridding its way homewards through 
the lanes, almost every inch of which he knew. Would 
Miles betray him ? No, he thought not — at least wilfully 
and intentionally. If the Miles of to-day had the same 
characteristics as he remembered in the boy, he had an 
amount of pride which would render it impossible for him 
to move in the matter. Impossible ! Yes, because to move 
in it would be to announce to the world that he, the Squire 
of Rowley Court, was the brother of Mr. Lloyd the turfite, 
the "confederate" of Lord Ticehurst, the — and Gilbert 
cursed the pride which would make his brother look down 
upon him, even though to that pride he principally looked 
for his own safety. But might not Miles unintentionally 
blunder and blurt out the secret ? He had been hot-headed 
and violent of speech as a boy, and his conduct at Carabas 
House on the introduction had proved that he had no com- 
mand over his feelings. This was what it was to have to do 
with fools. And then Gilbert Lloyd recollected that, on the 
only other occasion in his life when the chance of compro- 
mising his future was in the hands of another person, it was 
his wife to whom the chance was allotted ; and he remem- 
bered the perfect security which he felt in her sense and 
discretion. His wife ! He had not thought of her for a 
very long time. He wondered where she was and what she 
was doing. He wondered whether she had altered in per- 
sonal appearance, whether anyone else had — pshaw ! what 
the deuce did it matter to him? Nevertheless, he angrily 
quickened the step with which he was pacing the room as 
the thought crossed his mind. no, Miles would not betray 
him ! There were other reasons why he should not. Did 
he not — perhaps it was a mistake after all his having broken 
with Gertrude in that manner ? She would have been in 
his way here and there, perhaps ; but she was wonderfully 
accommodating, even in letting him have his own way so far 
as coming and going were concerned ; and how shrewd and 
clear-headed she was ! So good-looking, too ! He found 
himself idly tracing her profile with his finger on the table 



126 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

in front of him. Strange girl — what an odd light there was 
on her face that — that night when they parted ! And 
Harvey Gore — O, good Lord ! what had started that vein 
of thought 1 That confounded meeting with Miles had 
upset him entirely. Harvey Gore ! — did Gertrude suspect ? 
— she knew. He was certain she knew, and that was what 
— It was for the best that he had got rid of her ; for the 
best that he was on his own hook — only himself to consult 
and rely upon, and no one else with a chance of selling him. 
All women were unreliable, and interfered with business. 
By the way, what was that Ticehurst was saying as they 
came away in the brougham about some woman who had 
sung in the early part of the evening, before he got to 
Carabas House 1 Ticehurst was wonderfully enthusiastic 
for him — such a face, such a figure, such a lovely voice L 
These raptures meant nothing serious, Gilbert supposed ; at 
all events he intended to take care that they should mean 
nothing serious. That affair of Eugenie de Meronville, when 
Ticehurst's admiration very nearly brought him under an 
infuriated Frenchman's fire, had been of infinite service, 
Gilbert reflected with a grin, in cooling his lordship's love 
ardour, and indeed had kept him very much aloof from the 
sex. It was better so ; if Lord Ticehurst married, more than 
half Gilbert Lloyd's influence would be gone, if indeed the 
turf were not abandoned, and the "confederate" chassed ; 
and any other arrangement in which a woman might be 
concerned would be equally unsatisfactory. Fancy his 
having seen Miles, and heard the old name too ! How much 

did Miles know ? He turned on his heel as if and yet 

the old man would never iiave told him. His pride would 
have prevented that ; at all events nothing could be gained 
by keeping awake now. He had thought it out, and decided 
that, for several reasons, his brother would not betray him ; 
and so Gilbert Lloyd turned into bed, and slept as peacefully 
and as easily as the darkest schemers often do, despite all 
the romancists say to the contrary. 

Next day he was walking through the Park with his 
patron, on their way to Tattersall's, when just as they 
crossed the Drive, a brougham dashed rapidly by them. 
Lord Ticehurst clutched his companion's arm, and said 
eagerly, " Look, Gilbert — quick ! there she is." Gilbert 
Lloyd looked round, and said in a tone of irritation, 



the linnet's cage. 127' 

"What? Who?" "The girl who sung last night at 
Carabas's. The stunner I told you of." " Then I wish the 
stunner had gone some other way," said Lloyd. " I didn't 
even have the satisfaction of seeing her; and I was just 
totting-up how we stood on the Ascot Cup, and you've 
startled all the figures out of my head." 



M 



CHAPTEK VII. 

THE LINNET'S CAGE. 

ES. BLOXAM had had no reason to regret the assent 
which she had given to the proposition made to her 
by her ex-pupil Gertrude Lloyd. The arrangement had 
turned out successfully, and the far-seeing astute lady, who 
had had quite enough of schoolkeeping considerably before 
she saw her way to the abandonment of that uncongenial 
occupation, soon began to see visions and dream dreams of 
a very different and much more enjoyable kind of life in 
the i future. For a calm person, not to be taken in by ap- 
pearances, and habitually distrustful of first impressions, 
Mrs. Bloxam may be said to have been astonished when 
she beheld her former pupil, after the lapse of two years 
and a half, during which Gertrude had been learning ex- 
perience in a school which, thotigh always severe, was 
sufficiently varied ; and Mrs. Bloxam, when she remembered 
the girl at all, thought of her only as the clever and hand- 
some pupil, who had outwitted her indeed (but that was a 
feat which she was not likely to overrate — she never im- 
posed any magnified notion of her own vigilance upon 
herself), but who was not likely to turn out in any way 
remarkable. Gertrude's letter had struck her rather 
forcibly as being out of the common way ; apart from the 
unusual nature of the circumstances which had given rise 
to it, its coolness, firmness, and business-like precision were 
not common in the schoolmistress's experience of feminine 
correspondence ; and there was nothing in her previous 
knowledge of Gertrude's intellect and character which 
would have naturally led her to take such a manifestation 
of those qualities for granted. Mrs. Bloxam thought a 



128 THE HOCK. AHEAD. 

good deal about Gertrude's letter in the interval between 
the receipt of it and the arrival of its writer. It occurred 
to her that the girl who took her life into her own manage- 
inent, after the clear, cool-headed fashion in which it was 
plain that Gertrude was acting, must have been rather a 
difficult wife to manage, and not a particularly safe one to 
deceive and injure. From thinking of Gertrude as the 
wife and the enemy of Gilbert Lloyd, it was an easy transi- 
tion to think of Gertrude as possibly her (Mrs. Bloxam's) 
enemy — easy, not pleasant — and significantly encouraging 
to that lady, in the resolution she had formed, to treat 
Gertrude in all respects well, and with loyalty. Mrs. 
Bloxam conceived, in the course of her cogitations, a very 
reasonable certainty that Gertrude had developed into a 
kind of person, who, if she made up her mind to discover 
the secret of her birth, parentage, and previous position, 
would inevitably do so, or make herself extremely dis- 
agreeable in the process of failure. When this notion 
associated itself with the recollection of the comfortable 
sums of money which she had continued to receive for 
Gertrude's benefit, when Gertrude was absent and her fate 
unknown, Mrs. Bioxam congratulated herself on the course 
she had adopted, and made such virtuous resolutions that 
she would advance Gertrude's interests in every way 
within her power, that she soon succeeded in compounding 
with her conscience for the — indiscretion. 

When Gertrude made her appearance at the Yale House, 
Mrs. Bloxam's anticipations were more than fulfilled. The 
young woman's easy and assured grace of manner, the calm- 
ness with which she inducted herself into the place which 
she had assigned to herself in the establishment, and the 
conviction with which she inspired Mrs. Bloxam that, if 
she desired to possess her confidence, she must patiently 
await the time and manner of her accordance of it, at her 
own will, were simply inimitable. The schoolmistress con- 
templated the girl with wonder and secret admiration. 
She had seen so much of the vapidity, the frivolity, the 
dependence, and the littleness of feminine human nature, 
that (as she did not care for Gertrude sufficiently to be 
alarmed by the dangerous side of her complex character) 
it was a positive pleasure to her to observe a disposition so 
exceptional. In person she was also changed and much 



THE LINNET'S CAGE. 120 

improved, though Mrs. Bloxam was not slow to notice the 
discordant expression which occasionally deprived her face 
of its youthfulness by lending it an intensity beyond her 
years. 

Gertrude Lloyd had been settled at the Vale House for 
more than a week, and had entered on her duties with a 
grave alacrity which surprised Mrs. Bloxam, whose recol- 
lection of her as a desultory pupil had left her unprepared 
to find the girl an active and conscientious teacher, before 
she accorded to Mrs. Bloxam any more confidence than 
that which her letter had conveyed. When so much time 
had elapsed, she informed Mrs. Bloxam that she intended 
to commence her singing-lessons, and invited that lady to 
be present at the trial of her voice. The masters who 
attended at the Vale House were all of a superior class, and 
Gertrude was satisfied to abide by the opinion which 
Signor da Capo should express concerning her musical 
capacity. The testimony of that dark-eyed and sentimental 
exile was most reassuring ; he had rarely heard such a voice 
as Miss Lambert's, and it was perfectly fresh and uninjured, 
susceptible of the highest training. He could conscientiously 
assure Miss Lambert no concert-singer in London possessed 
a finer organ, not even Mademoiselle Boulade, who was 
just then making such a sensation at the private concerts 
of the nobility — she was quite the rage at Carabas House 
in particular. 

Miss Grace Lambert was not interested in Mademoiselle 
Roulade, and cut the worthy signor's raptures rather 
unceremonioiisly short ; but he produced a second edition 
of them for the benefit of Mrs. Bloxam, when Miss 
Lambert had left the room, and evinced so much curiosity 
concerning Miss Lambert's future plans, throwing out hints 
of the advantage to be derived from the judicious promulga- 
tion of reports as avant-coureurs of a debutante, that Mrs. 
Bloxam felt convinced of his sincerity, and forthwith began 
to form a pleasant scheme for the future in her fancy. 

On the same evening Gertrude requested audience of 
Mrs. Bloxam in her private sitting-room ; and having been 
cordially welcomed, briefly expressed her appreciation of 
the kindness with which she had been received at the Vale 
House, and asked Mrs. Bloxam's opinion of what Siguor da 
Capo had said. Mrs. Bloxam thought nothing could be 

K 



130 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

more satisfactory, nothing more encouraging ; and if 
Gertrude really intended to become a public singer 

" I do intend it," interrupted Gertrude, with a slight 
expressive frown ; " understand this once for all, Mrs. 
Bloxam, my mind is quite made up. I may succeed, I may 
fail ; but at least I will make the attempt ; and I feel that 
I shall succeed. I am confident this will not be a losing 
speculation for you." 

" My dear girl," said Mrs. Bloxam — and she said it quite 
sincerely, with true interest : there had been a fascination 
for her about the girl since her return, a charm partly 
arising from the uncommonness of her disposition and 
manners, and partly from, the elder woman's dim perception 
of the pitif ulness of her story — " I am not thinking about 
that. I am thinking about you, and of what you must 
have suffered, to have made you turn your back so reso- 
lutely on your past life. You are so young, Gertrude." 

" Grace, if you please," said the younger woman, and 
she touched Mrs. Bloxam's hand for a moment. In the 
slight caress there was a little softening, and the other took 
advantage of it. 

" You may trust me, my dear, you may indeed," she 
said. " 1 don't pretend to be disinterested in many of the 
occurrences of my life ; I could not afford to be so — no 
woman can who has her bread to earn — and I have not 
acted disinterestedly towards you ; but I will if you will 
trust me." 

An unusual expression of gentleness was in Mrs. Bloxam's 
face, and her shallow shifty blue eyes grew almost deep and 
almost steady under the influence of unwonted feeling. 

Gertrude sat still before her, with downcast eyes. A 
little interval of silence passed, and then she looked up, and 
spoke. 

" I will trust you, Mrs. Bloxam, as much as I can ever 
trust any one in this world. I am separated for ever, of my 
own free will, by my own irrevocable decision, from my 
husband. I cannot tell you why in more than general 
terms. Gilbert Lloyd is a bad man — I am not a particularly 
good woman ; but I could not live with him, and I trust I 
may never see him again. My life is at my own disposal 
now ; I have no friend but you." 

There was no tremor in her voice, no quiver through her 



THE LINNETS CAGE. 131 

slight frame, as this young girl gave so terrible an account 
of herself. 

" But if lie claims you 1 " said Mrs. Bloxam. 

" He will never claim me," replied Gertrude ; and there 
was that in her voice and in her look which carried convic- 
tion to her hearer's mind. " He is more than dead to me — 
he is as though he had never lived." 

" My poor child, how wretched you must be ! " exclaimed 
Mrs. Bloxam, almost involuntarily. 

" I am not wretched," said Gertrude ; and again she 
frowned slightly, and again her face looked old, and her 
voice sounded hard. " I feel that there has been a chapter 
of misery and of degradation in the story of my life ; but I 
have closed it for ever. I will never speak of it again, I 
will never think of it again, if by any effort of my will I 
can keep my mind clear of it. I am young, strong, clever, 
and ambitious ; and I am not the first woman who has 
made a tremendous mistake, and incurred a dreadful penalty, 
in the outset of her life ; but I daresay few, if any, have 
had such a chance of escape from the consequences as I 
have. I will take the fullest advantage of it. And now, 
Mrs. Bloxam, we will talk of this no more. Let that man's 
name be as dead to you and me as all feeling about him is 
dead in my heart for ever ; and help me to make a new line 
in life for myself." 

Mrs. Bloxam looked at her silently, and sighed. Then 
she said ; 

" You are a strange young woman, and have suffered 
some great wrongs, I am sure. It shall be as you wish, my 
dear, and I will try to forget that you ever were anything 
but Grace Lambert. And now let us talk of affairs — yours 
and mine, if you like ; for I have something to tell you, and 
to consult you about." 

Gertrude looked round her, and smiled. The scene of 
their interview and its associations were strangely familiar 
to her. It seemed as though it were only the other day 
she had sat in that same room, summoned to a consultation 
with Mrs. Bloxam about the expenditure of her quarter's 
allowance, and the fashion of her summer costume. The 
same bureau lay open, disclosing a collection of tradesmen's 
books and bills of well-known aspect. Gertrude knew in 
which of the little drawers the reserve of prospectuses, in 

k2 



132 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

which the innumerable and incomparable advantages of the 
Vale House were set forth, was kept. A low chair, with a 
straight, upright, uncompromising back, whereon a very 
frosty-looking bunch of yellow dahlias had been worked in 
harsh worsted by a grateful pupil, stood in the position it 
had always occupied within Gertrude's memory, beside the 
bureau. It was known as " the client's chair." Moved by 
a familiar impulse, Gertrude rose and seated herself in this 
chair, and looked up at Mrs. Bloxam, with the old look so 
completely banished from her face, with so exactly the same 
girlish smile which she remembered, that Mrs. Bloxam 
started. 

" You might have never gone away," she said, " for all 
the change there is in you now. What a chameleon you are, 
Gertrude — " 

" Grace !" said Gertrude once more ; and then the con- 
sultation, whose details there is no need to follow, as they 
will be made plain by their results, proceeded without 
interruption. 



Signor da Capo was right in his judgment of Miss 
Lambert's voice. Her industry in the study of her art, her 
unflinching labour, and her great talent were alike con- 
spicuous. After the interview with Mrs. Bloxam, Miss 
Lambert did not make her appearance very often in the 
school-room, and it was rumoured that she was not going 
to be exactly a teacher. This report proved to be correct. 
She gave a few occasional lessons, but only in a casual way ; 
and it was understood among the pupils that not only did 
Miss Lambert receive lessons of preternatural duration from 
Signor da Capo, but that she went very often into London, 
and took instruction from a still more eminent professor 
of music, a beatified creature, glorious on the boards of 
the Italian Opera. It was even said, and with truth, that 
Miss Lambert's singing was beginning to be talked of out- 
side the precincts of the Vale House ; and that great ladies 
with coronets on their carriages and pocket-handkerchiefs 
had questioned Signor da Capo about his gifted pupil, and 
even called on Mrs. Bloxam. When these rumours had 
been for some time in circulation, and Grace Lambert's 
appearance in the school-room had become an event so rare 



the linnet's cage. 133 

as not to be looked for move than once in ten days or so, 
another report, and one of a startling nature, disturbed the 
small world of the Establishment for Young Ladies. This 
tremendous on dit foretold an event of no less moment 
than the relinquishment of the " Establishment " by Mrs. 
Bloxam, and that lady's retirement into the genteel tran- 
quillity of private life. The Vale House had been disposed 
of ; so ran the rumour ; and Mrs. Bloxam was communi- 
cating with the " parents and guardians," and making over 
her interest and "connection" to her successor. The announce- 
ment would be made at breaking-uptime. Much excitement 
prevailed. Most of the young ladies entertained a lively 
hope that their parents would not feel unreserved confidence 
in the successor, and that thus they should gain an inde- 
terminate addition to the vacation. Those who had no such 
hope rather liked the novelty of the substitution. They 
" didn't mind old Bloxam ; " — but anything new must be 
welcome. For once rumour was not mistaken. When 
breaking-up time came, Mrs. Bloxam took leave of her dear 
young charges in a touching speech, and consigned them, 
with many expressions of interest, to the care of the Misses 
Toppit, who were henceforth to preside over the Vale 
House. 

It was generally understood that Mrs. Bloxam's retire- 
ment had taken place under pecuniary conditions of a 
satisfactory character, and that Mr. Dexter had acted in the 
matter with becoming zeal for the interests of his client. 
A few days after the departure of her "dear young friends" 
for their several homes, Mrs. Bloxam left the Vale House 
She was accompanied by Grace Lambert, who remarked, as 
they drove away, " It must be painful to you, after all, to 
leave a place where you have lived so long." 

" Jso," said Mrs. Bloxam, " it is not. 2" feel what the 
girls fancy about it : I have had too much work and too little 
play there, to be able to regret the Vale House." 



The carriage placed at her disposal by the Marchioness of 
Carabas whirled Miss Grace Lambert, after her brilliantly 
successful first appearance at Carabas House, to a small but 
remarkably pretty villa at Bayswater. The detached house, 
intensely modern and white, with the largest possible 



134 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

windows for its size, and the prettiest possible ornamenta- 
tion about it — of carved wood in the Swiss style, and curly- 
iron railings and posts and verandahs in the Birmingham 
style, with neat flower-beds, the colours all en suite, in the 
miniature Tuileries style — was very pretty and very com- 
fortable. Mrs- Bloxam interested herself in every detail of 
the small establishment, which she had not found any diffi- 
culty in " starting " with her own funds, and which she 
fully expected to be able to maintain most creditably with 
those which should accrue from the success of Miss Grace 
Lambert, about which she was assured by competent autho- 
rities no reasonable doubt could be entertained. 

And now that success seemed to be assured indeed. The 
little coterie which was wont to assemble almost daily at 
the villa would rejoice hugely on the morrow of the 
grand concert at Carabas House, and the grand Carabas 
Marchioness would no doubt speed the fame of her 
protegee's success far and wide in the most profitable 
directions. 

The Marchioness had " taken up " Signor da Capo's 
favourite pupil, concerning whom the gushing Italian was 
wont to tell wonderful things, while he was pretending to ad- 
minister instruction to the Lady Angelica, the beautiful and 
accomplished daughter of the most noble the Marchioness, 
who had a remarkably pretty throat, which the singing 
attitude exhibited in a favourable light, but who possessed 
about as much talent for music, or indeed for anything, as 
the favourite Persian cat of the most noble. Signor da Capo 
was very good-looking, and was one of those who, at a 
respectable distance, and in a modified sense, " understood " 
the Marchioness, and she responded to his gushing com- 
munications about Miss Lambert's talents and attractions, 
and the inevitable furore which she was indubitably to 
create, by a vehemently-expressed desire to befriend that 
young lady, and an amiable determination to bring her out 
at Carabas House, and so at once serve Miss Lambert, and 
prevent Lady Lowndes, who was her intimate enemy, and a 
rival patroness of genius, art, literature, and fashionable 
religion, from "getting hold of" the promising young 
debutante. The pleasure of the honest signor — who was 
truly interested in his young friend, and who religiously 
believed every word he had said in her favour — when Lady 



the linnet's cage. 135 

Carabas announced her intention of making Miss Lambert's 
acquaintance, was genuine and demonstrative, and he readily 
gave the pledge which she exacted from him, that he would 
not let Lady Lowndes know of the existence of this un- 
sunned treasure. 

" I cannot answer for the discretion of M — , my lady," 
said the signor ; he knows Miss Lambert's genius as well as 
I do, and he goes to Lady Lowndes' oftener than I do ; but 
there is always the chance for us that M — never thinks, 
and seldom talks of, anybody but himself." 

The acquaintance made under such favourable auspices 
ripened rapidly into intimacy, very flattering, and likely to 
prove very profitable, to Miss Lambert. The Marchioness 
was almost as much delighted with the girl as she professed 
to be ; and Miss Lambert, who " understood " the grande 
dame in quite a different sense from that in which she was 
in the habit of using the word, was quite alive to the profit 
and the pleasure to be derived from such exalted patronage. 
The calmness, the reserve, the unbending self respect of the 
girl had a powerful effect on Lady Carabas. They excited her 
curiosity, and awakened her interest. She had a good deal of 
the former in her disposition, apropos of everything, and 
particularly apropos of the love affairs of her friends and 
acquaintances, and she naturally felt strong curiosity on this 
subject as regarded Grace Lambert. She arrived, as she 
thought, at a tolerably accurate knowledge of who Miss 
Lambert saw, and where Miss Lambert went; but she never 
came upon the traces of the slightest " tendre." 

" How very charming !" said the Marchioness of Carabas 
to herself, a day or two before the grand concert at Carabas 
House ; " this young creature's heart has evidently never 
spoken. She will be a debutante in every sense." 

The heart of the most noble had spoken so frequently, 
that it might fairly be supposed to be a little hoarse. Hence 
her admiration of the inarticulatism of that organ in the 
case of Grace Lambert. As she drove in the park that day, 
she actually meditated upon the expediency of introducing 
to the special notice of her charming protegee a delightful 
man in the Blues, who had up to a late period " understood" 
her, but who had had the misfortune to bore her lately, and 
the bad taste to take his dismissal in dudgeon. 

" He knows about music," thought her ladyship ; " yes, 



136 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

that will do;" and then she pulled the check-string, and 
gave the order " home/' and had scribbled half a dozen 
notes of invitation to a little dinner en petit comite on the 
following Sunday, before post-hour. One of the half-dozen 
notes was addressed to Lord Sandilands, a second to the 
man in the Blues, and a third to Miss Grace Lambert. The 
destination of the other three is no concern of ours. 

When Miss Lambert's page brought her the much- 
monogramed note which contained Lady Carabas' invita- 
tion, she observed that a second missive lay on the salver. 
It was addressed to Mrs. Bloxam, who was sitting in the 
same room, at a little distaace from the piano before which 
Grace was seated. The page crossed the room, and held the 
salver towards Mrs. Bloxam, who took the letter, and as 
she glanced at the superscription, turned deadly pale. She 
held the letter in her hand unopened, and glanced with a 
strange uneasiness in her usually placid face towards Grace. 
But Grace had thrown the note she had just read on the 
floor beside her, and her fingers were scampering over the 
keys, and her voice was pouring out volumes of sound; 
she seemed unconscious even of Mrs. Bloxam's presence. 
Seeing which that lady rose and went to her own room. 
Having reached that sanctum, and carefully bolted the door, 
she broke the seal of the letter which had caused her to 
experience so much emotion, and found, as she expected, 
that it came from Lord Sandilands. Its contents were 
brief and business-like. Mrs. Bloxam knew his lordship's 
style of old. He told her that he wished to see her alone, 
for a reason which he would explain in person, should he be 
so fortunate as to procure the desired interview, on calling 
at the villa on the following day, at three o'clock in the 
afternoon. He would take his chance of finding her at 
home, and, if he should be unsuccessful, would call again. 

The receipt of this letter threw Mrs. Bloxam, who had 
been prevented by indisposition from accompanying Grace 
Lambert to Carabas House, and was therefore unaware that 
Lord Sandilands had been present at the concert, into a 
state of the utmost perturbation. She dreaded she knew 
not what. It was in vain she asked herself what had she 
to fear. If, indeed, the design of Lord Sandilands iu 
coming to see her were to inquire after his daughter, he 
would find her in the care to which he had committed her. 



the linnet's cage. 137 

With regard to the career -which she had chosen, he cer- 
tainly could not possess the right, nor could she imagine his 
having the inclination, to interfere. Was he coming to 
destroy the long-maintained incognito, to make himself 
known to his daughter 1 Was he coming to demand from 
her, to whose care he had committed the child, a stern 
account of her stewardship ? Had he any suspicion of the 
truth 1 Had any rumour of Gertrude's miserable marriage 
reached her father ? Was he coming in anger, or in 
curiosity, or in an access of newly-awakened conscience, of 
newly-born feeling ? She could not tell, and yet she was 
forced to ask herself these questions, vain though they 
were ; and Mrs. Bloxam acknowledged to herself after- 
wards that she had seldom passed through more miserable 
hours than those which elapsed between the receipt of 
Lord Sandilands' letter, and the page's announcement that 
Lord Sandilands was awaiting her presence in the drawiDg- 
room, on the afternoon of the same day. 

At the hour which he had named Lord Sandilands pre- 
sented himself at the villa. Mrs. Bloxam was alone, and 
received him with much more composure than she really 
felt, while he, in his turn, did not betray any symptoms of 
the unaccustomed mental perturbation which had led him 
to seek her presence. Years had elapsed since Mrs. 
Bloxam had last seen Lord Sandilands ; years had changed 
him from a hale middle-aged man to one on whom the 
burden of age was beginning to tell. Those years had 
made less alteration in her ; and the first desultory thought 
that occurred to her when she saw him was, how completely 
the likeness she had formerly traced in his features to those 
of Gertrude had ceased to exist. Lord Sandilands entered 
at once on the business of his visit. 

" I have come to ask you, Mrs. Bloxam," he said, 
" whether I am not right in supposing that the young lady 
whom I saw at Carabas House two nights ago is the same 
whom I placed with you under the name of Gertrude 
Keith 1 " 

"Miss Lambert is that young lady," replied Mrs. 
Bloxam. 

" I thought I could not be mistaken. I have never seen 
her since her childhood, as you know, and did not purpose 
to see her. But I have changed my mind. She is very 



138 THE ROCK. AHEAD. 

handsome and very clever, Mrs. Bloxam ; " and Lord 
Sandilands' voice took almost a pleading tone. " She is 
a girl who would do credit to such a position as — as I can- 
not give her now ; but I should like to serve her in any- 
way that is open to me ; and I have come to you to ask 
your advice as to how this is to be done." 

" Miss Lambert is in the house now," said Mrs. Bloxam ; 
" but I have not mentioned your name to her, or your 
intended visit. I fancied you might have some such pur- 
pose as you tell me of in coming, and thought it better to 
wait until I should know more." 

"You did very right, Mrs. Bloxam," said Lord Sandi- 
lands. "I think it is better I should not see Gertrude 
now ; and I do not think she ought ever to know the 
truth — to know that I am her father. It could do no good 
to her or to me ; there is no undoing the past ; but I see 
no objection, if you have none, to my being introduced to 
her in the character of an old friend of yours, interested in 
her because you are, and anxious to serve her. Do you see 
any reason why this should not be, Mrs. Bloxam 1 " 

"Certainly not, my lord," replied G-ertrude's friend; "it 
requires little consideration, 1 think, and I shall be happy 
to carry out your wishes now as formerly." 

Mrs. Bloxam spoke with her usual fluent composure. It 
had forsaken her for a little while after Lord Sandilands' 
appearance, but now it was perfectly restored. Things 
were taking the best possible turn. Lord Sandilands was 
putting himself into the position of her debtor, making a 
compact of positive friendship with her. "What an escape 
from the danger she dreaded, the risk she felt she had so 
duly incurred ! He had no suspicion — not the slightest — 
the terrible episode of Gertrude's disastrous marriage was, 
then, safely concealed from the only human being whom, 
beside herself and her husband, it concerned ! With steady 
serenity she turned her attention to what Lord Sandilands 
had to say to her. Their interview was long and uninter- 
rupted, until, a few minutes after they had heard the sound 
of carriage-wheels in the little avenue, Grace Lambert 
entered the room abruptly. She was looking handsome, 
and in high spirits, and came in, saying, — 

" I beg jovoc pardon — I thought you were alone." 

" This is Lord Sandilands, my dear," said Mrs. Bloxam ? 



THE LINNET'S FIKNT FLIUHT. 139' 

as the old uobleman rose and bowed. " Lord Sandilands, 
Miss Lambert. His Lordship saw you the other night at 
Carabas House, Grace." 

" Indeed ! " said Grace, with a perfectly unembarrassed 
smile. " I am going there now — Lady Carabas has sent the 
carriage for me — so I came to tell you." Then, with a 
gesture of leave-taking, she said to Lord Sandilands, " Ah, 
yes, I remember now, quite well. You were in the front 
seats, next to a tall young man with a very thick dark 
beard." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE LINNET'S FIRST FLIGHT. 



ci 



THERE were many phases of this life in which Lor 
Sandilands enjoyed a singular and an extensive popu- 
larity, many varieties of the social scale in which his name 
was mentioned with respect, and not a few in which he was 
regarded with far more than ordinary interest. In the first 
place, he was a man well born and well bred, and did 
honour to his position by his appearance, his manners, and 
the constant decorum which pervaded and formed part of 
his life. City merchants, members of parliament, who, 
having swept out their own counting-houses, of course 
became rigidest Conservatives, when by those wonderful 
gradations which are known to the reverent as " honest 
perseverance," and to the irreverent as " lucky flukes," they 
rose to be heads of the firm, felt immensely honoured by 
being permitted to play in the same rubber at the Portland 
with the calm, quiet, self-possessed, bald-headed, silver- 
fringed old nobleman, who was a model of courtesy through- 
out the game, but who never missed a point or gave a 
chance. Young men imbued with slang, as are the young 
men of the present day, dropped the metaphor of the prize- 
ring, music-hall, and the demi-monde, villa in the presence 
of the " high-dried old boy," of whose position there could 
not be the smallest doubt, and who, on occasion, had shown 
that he owned a tongue which could make itself felt 
" doosid unpleasantly, don't you know ! — kind of rough side 



140 



THE KOCK AHEAD. 



of it, and all that sort of tiling, you know ! " To women 
he was always scrupulously attentive, and was in conse- 
quence in the greatest favour amongst them. The fact of 
his wearing the willow for his old love, Lady Lucy Beecher, 
was repandu from Belgrave to Grosvenor Squares ; and the 
story, which had won for him such affectionate interest 
amongst those who were young at the time when, as all 
supposed, he was jilted by the fair one, and bore his jilting 
so manfully, yet lived amongst their descendants, and caused 
Lord Sandilands to be regarded as " a sweet old thing," who 
had suffered in Love's cause, by debutantes who were unborn 
when John Borlase first won Gertrude Gautier's childish heart. 
And yet Lord Sandilands was by no means a representa- 
tive man. For politics he cared little or nothing. On special 
occasions he went down to the House and voted with his 
party, but in that was comprised his whole Parliamentary 
career. He never spoke and never intrigued ; the Custom 
House and the Inland Revenue enrolled no members who 
had obtained their appointments at his instance ; his per- 
sonal appearance was unknown to the private secretary of 
the Postmaster-General ; nor was his handwriting to be 
found in the bulging pigeon-holes of the Treasury. Many 
years had elapsed since he had arrayed himself in the charm- 
ing court-costume which intelligence has retained from the 
•customs of the dark ages, and presented himself at the levees 
of his sovereign. At flower-shows and races, at afternoon 
Park or morning Bow, at garden parties or fetes champetres, 
at none of those gatherings where pleasant Frivolity rules, 
was Lord Sandilands known — at none, rather, save one — 
the Opera. There he was facile princeps ; there he was king 
of the place. The check-takers and the box-keepers knew 
him as well as they knew the lessee, and stood in as much 
awe of him. The principal librarians, Messrs. Ivory, 
MacBone, and Deloge, prostrated themselves before him, 
and were always most anxious to learn his opinion of 
any novelty, as on that opinion they were accustomed to 
base their calculation of profit or loss. With Schriuk, the 
critic of the Statesman — a cynical, hump-backed man, who 
had a spite against mankind, and " took it out " in writing 
venomous articles abusive of the world in general, and the 
musical world in particular — Lord Sandilands was the only 
man who had the smallest weight ; and many a neophyte 



THE LINNETS FIRST FLIGHT. HI 

has owed the touch of oil which she received, instead of the 
pickling which threatened her, to a kind word dropped by 
his lordship in the seclusion of that box on the pit tier to 
which he alone was admitted, where Schrink sat nursing his- 
leg, biting his nails, - and glowering with fury alike at 
dingers and audience. Behind the scenes his liopularity 
was equally great ; the sulky tenors gave up sucking their 
cough-lozenges and grinding their teeth at his approach, 
and welcomed him with courteous salutations; the basso 
roused himself from his stertorous sleep ; the prima donna 
gave up that shrill altercation with her snuffy old mother ; 
the property-men and the scene-shifters, who dashed in- 
discriminately against the gilded youth who roamed vacantly 
about, took special care to steer clear of Lord Sandilands, 
and touched their paper caps to him as he passed by ; and 
the little ballet-women and chorus-singers dropped deepest 
curtsies to his lordship, and felt that so long as he was- 
satisfied with them their pound a week was safe. 

Had he any interest in the management 1 That was a; 
moot point. Ever since the publication of the bankrupt's- 
schedule made patent the fact that a well-known advertising 
teacher of languages was identical with an even more noto- 
rious agricultural implement maker, one has been afraid 
to give any positive opinion as to who is who in this most 
extraordinary world of ours. Mr. Boulderson Munns was 
the responsible lessee of the Grand Opera, and held the 
reins of management ; but whose was the money embarked 
in the speculation it was impossible to say. Young Jeffcock, 
the China merchant (Jeffcock Brothers, of Shanghai), used 
to attend all the rehearsals, had boxes always at his com- 
mand, and was treated with great deference by Mr. Boul- 
derson Munns ; but in all these respects he was equalled by 
Jack Clayton of the Coldstreams, who was notoriously im- 
pecunious, who owed even for his button-hole bouquets, and 
who spent all his ready-money in hansom cabs and sprat- 
suppers for the corps de ballet. Tommy Toshington, who 
knew most things, declared that Lord Sandilands had no- 
monetary interest in the house, but that his position gave 
him greater influence with Mr. Boulderson Munns than was 
enjoyed by any of the others. " Sandilands, sir," Tommy 
would say, when he had dined well at somebody else's 
expense, — " Sandilands is the man to give a stamp to a 



142 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

thing of that sort ! Don't know what there is in him, but 
there's something that when he says a musical thing's all 
right, it's safe to go. Why, when that old grey horse and 
green brougham of his are seen at the door of Canzonet's 
shop, as they are day after day in the season, it's worth a 
fortune to Sam Canzonet — he told me so himself. Money ? 
Not a sixpence, not a sous. When he was John Borlase 
he was a regular screw, and he's not improved with age ; 
but it is not money Munns wants out of him. Jeffcock 1 
nonsense ! Jack Clayton % bah ! The real capitalist there, 

sir, is " and here Mr. Toshington whispered in your ear 

the name of a well-known Evangelical M.P., whom you 
would have as soon accredited with Mormonism as with 
connection with theatrical affairs ; and having made his 
point, hobbles off chuckling. 

There was truth in this, although it was said by Tommy 
Toshington. There was no doubt that Lord Sandilands had 
powerful interest in all the ramifications of the musical 
world ; and though this fact must for a long time have been 
patent to him, he never thought of it, never, at least, felt 
it so strongly as when he was turning over in his mind the 
curious chance which had brought him face to face with 
his daughter, and had been casting about as to how he best 
could serve her. That the girl had musical talent he was 
certain. He had served too long an apprenticeship, all 
amateur though it was, to his favourite science not to be 
thoroughly convinced of that ; and he knew perfectly well 
that Grace Lambert's voice and style were both far beyond 
those possessed by most of the gifted pupils of the Academy 
of Music : for the most part delightful young persons, who 
came out with a gush, and went in with a run ; who gave 
immense delight to their personal friends at the few concerts 
at which they sung gratuitously ; and who may, according 
to the orthodox ending of the children's tales, " have lived 
happy ever after," but who, at all events, passed the re- 
mainder of their lives in obscurity, and were never heard of 
again. 

No : Grace Lambert — what the deuce had made her 
assume so unromantic a name ? Gertrude Keith was fifty 
times as pretty — Grace Lambert was not to be measured by 
the usual bushel. Her voice, as Lord Sandilands recollected 
it at Carabas House, was one of the sweetest, the most 



THE LINNET'S FIRST FLIGHT. 143 

trainante and bewitching which, in all his great experience, 
he had ever listened to ; and there was something about 
her personal appearance, her hair and tournure, which com- 
j>letely lifted her out of the common. " Psht ! " said the 
old gentleman to himself, as he lay back in his easy-chair, 
revolving all these things in his mind — "how many of 'em 
have I seen ? There was Miss Lavrock — charmin' voice 
she had, bright and shrill, like a bird's pipe — a little fat, 
dumpy body, that made the plank in the Sonnambula creak 
beneath the weight of her ten stone, and looked more like 
a cook than Lucia ; and there was Miss Greenwood — Miss 
Bellenden Greenwood, I beg her pardon — with her saucy 
black eyes, and her red-and-white complexion, and her 
corkscrew ringlets — gad, how horrible ! But this child is 
marvellously distinguee and bred-looking ; the way her head 
is set on her shoulders, the shape of her head, the curve of 
her nostrils, and the delicacy of her hands — I'm always 
telling myself that blood's all bosh, as they say in their 
modern slang ; but 'pon my word, one finds there's some- 
thing in it after all ! " 

Lord Sandilands was a constant visitor now at the pretty 
Bayswater villa, and had conducted himself with, such 
courtesy and kindness as to render his presence anything 
but disagreeable to Grace. The time during whicli she had 
lived with her husband, short though it had been, had been 
quite long enough to give her an unconquerable aversion 
for slanginess and bad taste, and enable her to appreciate 
the spirit of the gentleman, which showed itself in every 
action, in every word of the old nobleman. Nor did Lord 
Sandilands, after a little time, care to conceal the great in- 
terest which he took in Miss, Lambert's career. While care- 
fully veiling everything which might show the relationship 
in which he stood to the young girl, and while never ceasing 
to impress on Mrs. Bloxam — much to that worthy woman's 
secret annoyance^ for was she not the possessor of a secret 
even more mysterious and more compromising in connection 
"with Gertrude 1 — the necessity of reticence, Lord Sandilands 
confessed to Miss Lambert that, actuated by the purest 
and most honourable motives, he wished to place himself at 
her service in advancing her interests in the profession which 
she had chosen, and in which she was evidently destined 
to take a high position, and in being of use to her in society. 



1^ THE EOCK AHEAD. 

And in both these ways the old nobleman was of the 
greatest assistance to the debutante. As has been before 
said, his verdict in musical matters was immensely thought 
of; while, though it must be acknowledged that the open 
and avowed support of many elderly noblemen would be 
anything but fortunate in securing the interests of a young 
musical lady with the members of her own sex, that of such 
a known Galahad as Lord Sandilands had due weight, and 
his protegee, duly escorted by Mr3. Bloxam, " went every- 
where." " Everywhere " included Lady Lowndes' ; and the 
Marchioness of Carabas knew of this, as how could she do 
otherwise 1 being a diligent student of the Morning Post, 
in addition to having it told her by seven of her dearest 
and most intimate friends, who called for the express 
purpose of startling her with the information during the 
next afternoon. But the Marchioness knew of Miss 
Lambert's appearance at Lady Lowndes' house, and yet 
received her the next day with a welcome which had in it 
even more than the usual empressement. Why ? impossible 
to say, save that people were beginning to talk more and 
more of Miss Grace Lambert's voice and appearance, and 
specially of her manners. " Something odd about her, don't 
you know 1 — frigid, unimpressionable, something-which-one- 
can't-make-out sort of thing, you know ! " the ladies said ; 
while the delightful creature in the Blues, to whom she had 
been specially introduced with the view of eliciting the 
speaking of her heart, declared she was " doosid hard nut to 
crack," and something which had beaten him, the delightful 
creature in the Blues, " by chalks." So that Lady Carabas, 
carefully noting all the phases of society, felt more bound 
than ever to " keep in " with the protegee whom she had in- 
troduced ; and the ambrosial footmen with the powdered 
locks went more frequently than ever between the halls 
of Carabas and the Bayswater villa, and the much-mono- 
gramed notes which they conveyed were warmer than ever 
in their expressions of admiration and attachment, and 
hopes of speedily seeing their most charming, &c. ; and 
more than ever was Lady Carabas Miss Grace Lambert's 
dearest friend. But Lady Carabas was a very woman after 
all, and as such her friendship for her dearest friend stopped 
at a certain point ; she brooked no interference in matters 
where her Soul (with the big S) was concerned. Other 



the linnet's FIRST FLIGHT. 145 

women, not possessing so much worldly knowledge, might 
have given their dearest friends opportunity for intimacy 
with the temporary possessor of the Soul, and then, 
quarrelled with them for causing the Soul to be depressed 
with the pangs of jealousy and distrust. Lady Carabas 
knew better than that. He whose image the Soul, however 
temporarily, enshrined must be kept sacred and apart, so 
far as it was possible to keep him, and must be troubled 
with no temptation. Hence it happened that Gilbert Lloyd, 
then regnant over Lady Carabas' Soul, was never permitted 
to meet, or scarcely even to hear of, the young lady in 
whom he would have recognised his wife. 

Of Miles Challoner, however, Miss Grace Lambert saw a 
great deal ; not, indeed, at Carabas House. Ever since the 
eventful evening of his introduction to Mr. Gilbert Lloyd, 
Miles had crossed the threshold of Lady Carabas' mansion 
as seldom as social decency, in deference to the Marchioness's 
constantly renewed invitations, would permit him. The 
invitations were constantly renewed ; for Lady Carabas had 
taken a liking to the young man, and, indeed, the idea had 
crossed her ladyship's mind that when Gilbert Lloyd's time 
of office had expired — and his tenure had been already more 
than the average^ — she could scarcely do better than intrust 
Miles Challoner with the secret of the existence of her Soul, 
and permit him to share in its aspiration. There was a 
freshness, she thought, about him which would suit her ad- 
mirably; a something so different from those fades and 
jaded worldlings among whom her life was passed. But 
though the invitations were constant, the response to them 
was very limited indeed, and only on one or two occasions 
subsequent to his introduction did Miles avail himself of the 
hospitality of Carabas House. On none of these occasions 
did he meet Mr. Gilbert Lloyd. The same reason which 
induced Lady Carabas to manoeuvre in keeping her friend 
for the time being from meeting her handsome protegee 
suggested to her the expediency of preventing any possible 
collision between the actual and the intended sharers of her 
Soul ; collision, as Lady Carabas thought, by no means un- 
likely to occur, as she was a shrewd observant woman of the 
world, and had noticed the odd behaviour of both gentle- 
men at the time of their introduction. 

But Lord Sandilands, loving Miles Challoner for his own 

L 



146 THE ROCK AHEA.D. 

and for his father's sake, and noticing the strong impres- 
sion which Miss Lambert's voice and beauty had made upon 
the young man, had taken him to the Bays-water villa, and 
formally introduced him ; and both Mrs. Bloxam and Grace 
had " hoped they should see more of him." He was a 
gentleman. You could not say much more of him than 
that ; but what an immense amount is implied in that word ! 
He was not very bright ; he never said clever or smart 
things — consequently he kept himself from evil-speaking, 
lying, and slandering ; he had no facility for gossip — con- 
sequently he never intruded on the ladies the latest news of 
the demi-monde heroines, nor the backstairs' sweepings of 
the Court ; he was earnest and manly, and full of youthful 
fervour on various subjects, which he discussed in a bright, 
modest way, which won Mrs. Bloxam's by no means im- 
pulsive heart, and at the same time made that impulsive 
heart beat quickly with its knowledge of Gertrude's secret r 
a secret with which the unexpressed but impossible-to-be- 
mistaken admiration of this young man might interfere. 

Impossible-to-be-mistaken admiration ? Quite impossible. 
Lord Sandilands — though years had gone by since he had 
been a proficient in that peculiar vocabulary, whose ex- 
pressions are undefined and untranslatable — recognized it in 
an instant, and scarcely knew whether to be pleased or 
vexed as the idea flashed upon him. He loved Miles like 
his own son, believed in all his good qualities, recognized 
and admitted that the young man had all in him requisite to 
make a good, loving husband ; his social status, too, was 
such as would be most desirable for a girl in Gertrude's 
position. But Lord Sandilands knew that any question of 
his natural daughter's marriage would entail the disclosure 
of the relation in which he stood to her ; and he dreaded 
the ridicule of the world, dreaded the banter of the club, 
dreaded more than all the elucidation of the fact that the 
repandu notion of his wearing the willow for Lady Lucy 
Beecher had been all nonsense, and that he had consoled 
himself for her ladyship's defalcation by an intrigue of a 
very different calibre. 

" I should be laughed at all over town," the old gentle- 
man said to himself ; "and though it must come, by 
George, it's best to put off the evil day as long as possible. 
I don't know. I'm an old fellow now, and have not as keen 



THE LIXNET'.S FIRST FLIGHT. 147 

nn eye for these things as I had ; but I don't perceive any 
si;; u of a tendresse on Gertrude's part ; and, all things con- 
sidered, I'm glad of it." 

And Lord Sandilands was right. There was not the 
smallest sign of any feeling for Miles Challoner in Grace 
Lambert. Had she had the least spark of such a feeling 
kindling in her heart, it is very doubtful whether she would 
have permitted it to be remarked in her outward manner ; 
but her heart was thoroughly free from any such sentiment. 
She liked Miles Challoner — liked his frank bearing, and was 
touched, after her fashion, by the respect which he showed 
her. It was something quite new to her, this old-fashioned 
courtesy from this young man. Of course, during her 
schooldays she had seen nothing of mankind, save as exem- 
plified in the foreign professors of languages and music, 
whose courtesy was for the most part of the organ-monkey 
order — full of bows and grins. After her marriage, the set 
in which she was thrown — though to a certain extent kept 
in order by the feeling that Gilbert Lloyd was " a swell," 
and had peculiar notions as to how his wife should be 
treated — never had scrupled to talk to her without removing 
their hats, or to smoke in her presence. And though the 
gentlemen she had met at Carabas House had been guilty of 
neither of these solecisms, there had been a certain laissez- 
aller air about them, which Grace Lambert had ascribed to 
a tant soit feu disdain of her artistic position ; the real fact 
being that to assume a vice if he have it not, and to heap as 
much mud as possible on that state of life into which it has 
pleased Providence to call him, is the chosen and favourite oc- 
cupation of a high-born and wealthy young man of the present 
day. So Grace Lambert recognized Miles Challoner as a gentle- 
man pur sang, and appreciated him accordingly; had a bright 
glance and a kindly word of welcome for him when he 
appeared at the Bayswater villa, made him at home by con- 
tinuing her singing-practice while he remained, made him 
happy by asking him when he was coming again as he said 
his adieux ; but as to having what Lord Sandilands called a 
tendresse for the man, as to being in love with him — Love 
came into Gertrude Keith's heart three months before she 
walked out of the laundry-window over the roof of the 
schoolroom, and stepped down on to the driving-seat of the 
hansom cab, in which Gilbert Lloyd was waiting to take her 

l2 



148 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

off to the church and make her his wife. Love died out of 
Gertrude Lloyd's heart within three months of that 
marriage-day ; and as for Grace Lambert, she never had 
known and never intended to know what the sentiment 
meant. So, so far, Lord Sandilands was right ; and the 
more he watched the conduct of the two young people when 
alone towards each other — and he watched it narrowly 
enough — the more he took occasion to congratulate himself 
on his own perspicacity and knowledge of the world. But 
at the same time he reflected that the life which Miss Grace 
Lambert was leading was but a dull one, that she took but 
little interest in these society successes ; and he took 
occasion to glean from her what he knew before — that her 
heart and soul were bound up in her profession, and that 
she was by no means satisfied by the hitherto limited 
opportunities afforded her of showing what she really could 
do therein. This ambition of the girl's to make for herself 
name and fame in the musical world by no means jarred 
against the ideas of the old nobleman. He should have to 
acknowledge her as his daughter some day or other, that he 
saw clearly enough ; and it would be infinitely preferable to 
him, and would render him infinitely less ridiculous in the 
eyes of that infernal bantering club-world of which he stood 
so much in awe, if he could point to a distinguished artist 
of whom all the world was talking in praise, and say, " This 
is my child," than if he had to bear the brunt of the 
parentage of a commonplace and unknown person. There 
were half-a-dozen other ladies occupying a somewhat similar 
position to Miss Lambert's in society, as queens of amateur 
singing sets; and though she was acknowledged by all dis- 
interested people to be far and away the best of them, it was 
necessary that she should have some public ratification of her 
merits, or, at all events, that some professional opinion, in- 
dependent of that of Da Capo or her other singing-master, 
who would naturally be biassed, should be given. The 
other ladies were daughters and wives of rich men, who sang 
a little for their friends' and a great deal for their own amuse- 
ment ; but Miss Lambert's career was to be strictly pro- 
fessional, and a touchstone of a very different kind was to be 
applied to her merits. 

That was a happy time for Miles Challoner, perhaps really 
the happiest in his life. His first love, at least the first 



the linnet's first flight. 149 

passion really deserving that name, was nascent within him, 
and all the environing circumstances of his life were tinged 
with the roseate hue which is the necessary " local colour " 
of the situation. Moreover, his feelings towards Gertrude 
were at present in that early stage of love in which they 
could be borne and indulged in without worrying and 
making him miserable. She was the nicest woman he had 
ever seen, and there was something marvellously attractive 
about her, something which he could not explain, but the 
magnetic influence of which he knew it impossible to resist. 
So he abandoned himself to the enjoyment of this pleasant 
feeling, enjoying it doubly perhaps, because up to this point 
it had been, and seemed to promise to continue to be, a mild 
and equable flame ; not scorching and withering everything 
round it, but burning with a pleasant, steady heat. You 
see, at present Mr. Challoner had not seen much, if any- 
thing, of Miss Lambert alone ; his admiration sprung from 
observation of her under the most commonplace circum- 
stances, and his passion had never been quickened and stung 
into fiercer action by the thought of rivalry. True, that 
whenever Miss Lambert went into society she was always 
surrounded by a bragging crowd of representatives of the 
gilded youth of the period, who did their best to flatter and 
amuse her ; attempts in which, if her grave face and 
formal manner might be accepted in evidence, they in- 
variably and signally failed. And at the Bayswater villa 
he might be said to have her entirely to himself, he being 
the only young man admitted there, with the exception 
occasionally of some musical professor, native or foreign ; the 
delightful creature in the Blues, and other delightful 
creatures who had made Miss Lambert's acquaintance in 
society, having tried to obtain the entree in vain. 

So Miles went on pleasantly in a happy dream, which was 
very shortly to come to an end ; for Lord Sandilands, 
thinking it full time that some definite steps should be taken 
in regard to Gertrude's professional future, arrived one 
morning at the Bayswater villa, and was closeted with the 
young lady for more than two hours. During this inter- 
view, the old gentleman, without betraying his relationship 
with her, told Gertrude that, far beyond anything else, he 
had her interests at heart ; that he had perceived her desire 
for professional distinction ; and that, as he saw it was 



150 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

impossible to combat it, he was ready then and there to 
advance it to the best of his ability. Only, as the training 
was somewhat different, it was necessary that she should 
make up her mind whether she would prosecute her career 
in the concert-room or on the operatie stage. 

It was a pity Miles Challoner was not present to mark 
the brilliant flush which lit up Gertrude's usually pale 
cheeks, the fire which flashed in her eyes, and the proud 
curl of her small lips, as this proposition was made to her. 
For a few moments she hesitated, a thousand thoughts 
rushed through her mind — thoughts of her real position, 
retrospect of her past life — a wild, feverish vision of future 
triumph, where she, the put-aside and rejected of Gilbert 
Lloyd, the pupil-teacher of the suburban boarding-school, 
should be queen- regnant, and have some of the greatest and 
highest in the kingdom for her slaves. As prima donna of 
the Opera, what position might she not assume, or where 
should her sway stop, if ambition were to be gratified 1 
And then the old cynical spirit arose within her ; and she 
thought of the tinsel and the sham, the gas and the gew- 
gaws ; and the light died out of her eyes, and her cheeks 
resumed their usual pallor, and it was a perfectly cold hand 
which she placed in Lord Sandilands', as she said to him, 
without the smallest tremor in her voice, " You have 
indeed proved yourself a perfectly disinterested friend, my 
lord ; how could I do better than leave the decision on my 
future career in your hands 1 " 

Lord Sandilands was rather unprepared for this speech, 
and a little put out by it. He had an objection to accepting 
responsibility in general ; and in this instance, where he 
really felt deeply, he thought naturally that Gertrude would 
scarcely think of him with much gratitude if his choice did 
not eventuate so happily for her as he intended. However, 
there was nothing else to be done ; so he raised the cold 
hand to his lips with old-fashioned gallantry, and promised 
to " think the matter over," and see her again on the 
following day. With many people, to think a matter over 
means to discuss it with some one else. Lord Sandilands 
was of this class ; and though he accepted the commission 
so glibly from Gertrude, he never had the smallest intention 
of deciding upon it without taking excellent advice. That 



t> 



THE LINNET'S FIRST FLIGHT. 151 

advice he sought at the hands of Mr. Deloge, the 
" librarian '' of Jasmin Street. 

An odd man, Mr. Deloge — a character worth a passing 
study. His father, who had been a " librarian " before him, 
had amassed a large sum of money iu those good old days 
when speculations in opera-boxes and stall-tickets were 
highly renranerative to those who knew how to work them, 
had given his son an excellent education abroad, and had 
hoped to see him take a superior position in life. But, to 
his parent's disappointment, young Deloge, returning from 
the Continent with a knowledge of several languages, and 
an acquaintance with life and the world which serves any 
one possessing it better than any other knowledge whatso- 
ever, determined to follow the family business, adding to it 
and grafting on to it such other operations as seemed to be 
analogous. These operations were so admirably selected 
and so well conducted, that before the old man died he had 
quite acquiesced in his son's decision, and at the time of 
our story there was no more thriving man in London. The 
old-fashioned shop in Jasmin Street bore the name over the 
door still ; but that name was now widely known through- 
out England and Europe. No Secretary of State was 
harder worked than Mr. Deloge, who yet found time to 
hunt once or twice a week, to live at Maidenhead during 
the summer, and at Brighton during the autumn, and 
generally to enjoy life. In person he was a tall thin man, 
with an excellently-made wig and iron-grey whiskers, 
always calm and staid in demeanour, and always irre- 
proachably dressed after the quietest style. He looked 
like a middle-aged nobleman whose life had been passed 
in diplomacy ; and people who asked who he was — and 
most people did, so striking was his appearance — were sur- 
prised to hear that he was only " the man who sells the 
stalls, don't you know ? " in Jasmin Street. Nothing 
pleased him more than to observe this astonishment, and 
he used to delight in telling a story against himself in 
illustration of it. One day, in the course of business, he 
had occasion to wait on a very great lady, one of his cus- 
tomers. He drove to the house iu his perfectly-appointed 
brougham, and the door was opened by a strange footman, 
to whom he crave his card for transmission to her grace. 



152 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

The footman led the way into the library, poked the fire, 
wheeled the largest arm-chair in front of it, and placed the 
Morning Post in the visitor's hands. Mr. Deloge had 
scarcely finished smiling at the extreme empressement of the 
man's manner, when the door was opened, and the same 
servant pushed his head in. " Her grace don't want no 
hop'ra-box to-night," were his charming words, delivered in 
his most offensive manner. The scales had fallen from his 
eyes, and the great creature found he had deceived himself 
into being civil to a " person in business." 

Mr. Deloge had gone through what to many men would 
have been an entire day's business in the morning before 
Lord Sandilands called \ipon him. He had read through 
an enormous mass of letters, and glanced over several news- 
papers — had pencilled hints for answers on some, and 
dictated replies to others at full length. His business 
seemed to have ramifications everywhere : in Australia, 
where he had an agent travelling with the celebrated 
Italian Opera troupe — the soprano, basso, tenor, and 
baritone, who were a little used up and bygone in England, 
but who were the greatest creatures that had ever visited 
Australia — so at least said the Wong-Wong Kangaroo, a 
copy of which the agent forwarded with his letter; 
in America, where Schlick's opera, in which Mr. Deloge 
possessed as much copyright as the large-souled American 
music-sellers could not pillage him of, was a great success ; 
in India, whence he had that morning received a large 
order for pianos — for Mr. Deloge is not above the manu- 
facture and exportation of musical instruments, and indeed 
realizes a handsome yearly revenue from that source alone. 
Before eleven o'clock he had come to terms, and signed and 
sealed an agreement with Mr. McManus, the eminent 
tragedian, for a series of readings and recitations through- 
out the provinces, thus giving the " serious " people who 
objected to costume and gas a quasi-theatrical entertain- 
ment which they swallowed eagerly ; he had sent a cheque 
for ten pounds to Tom Lillibullero, who was solacing his 
imprisonment in Whitecross Street by translating a French 
libretto for the house of Deloge ; he had given one of his clerks 
a list of a few friends to be asked down to Maidenhead the 
next Sunday — all art people, writers, painters, singers, who 



THE LINNET'S FIRST FLIGHT. 153. 

would have a remarkably jolly day, and enjoy themselves, 
as they always do, more than any other set of people in the 
world ; and he had written half a dozen private notes — one 
among the rest addressed to the Marchioness of Carabas, 
telling her that as her ladyship particularly wished it he 
should be happy to purchase and publish Mr. Ferdinand 
Wisk's operetta, which had been performed with such suc- 
cess at Carabas House ; but that he must stipulate that the 
operetta must be dedicated to her ladyship, and that each 
morceau must have a vignette from her ladyship's portrait 
on the cover. 

Mr. Deloge had not half completed his business for the 
day when he was informed, through the snake-like elastic 
pipe that lay at the right-hand of his writing-table, that 
Lord Sandilands was in the shop and asking to see him, but 
he gave orders that his visitor should at once be admitted. 
He was far too recognisant of the old nobleman's position in 
the musical world to have kept him waiting or allowed him 
to feel the smallest slight, if indeed there had not been, as 
there was, a feeling of respect between the two men, which, 
had they been on the same social footing, would have been 
strong friendship. 

" How d'ye do, Deloge ? " said Lord Sandilands, walking 
up and heartily shaking hands ; " this is very kind of you r 
my good fellow, to allow me to come and bother you when 
you're over head and ears in business, as you always are — 
very kind indeed." 

" I don't want to say a pretty thing, my dear lord," said 
Mr. Deloge, " but when I can't find leisure from my busi- 
ness to attend to you when you want to see me, I'd better 
give that business up." 

" Thanks, very much. Well, what's the news 1 Been to- 
Tenterden-street lately ? Any very promising talent making 
itself heard up there, eh 1 " 

" IS! o, my lord, none indeed, I'm glad to say," replied 
Deloge with a laugh. 

" Glad to say ! eh, Deloge 1 that's not very patriotic, 
is it?" 

" O, I did not mean to confine my gladness to the dearth 
of native talent. If you only knew, my dear lord, how I'm 
hunted out of life by promising talent, or by talent which 



154 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

considers itself promising and wants to perform, you would 
know fully how to appreciate, as I do, good steady-going 
mediocrity." 

" Bj t Jove, Deloge ! this is not very encouraging for me ! 
I came to ask your advice on the question of bringing out a 
young lady of unquestionable genius." 

" Unless her genius is quite unquestionable I should 
advise you to let the young lady remain in. Why, think 
for yourself, my dear lord ; you know these things as well 
as I do, and have every singer for the past quarter of a 
century in your mind. Run over the list and tell me which 
of them — always excepting Miss Lavrock — has made any- 
thing like a success." 

" Ha ! " said Lord Sandilands. " yes, the Lavrock — 
what a voice, what a charming trill ! not but that I think 
Miss Lambert " 



" Is it a question of Miss Lambert — Miss Grace Lam- 
bert 1 " 

" It is. Miss Lambert has decided upon adopting the 
musical profession, and my object in coming here was to 
consult you as to the best means to give effect to her 
wishes." 

"That's quite another affair. I have only heard Miss 
Lambert once. I was engaged by Lady Lowndes to pilot 
Miramella and Jacowski to one of her ladyship's wonderful 
gatherings, and after they had finished their duet we went 
to the dining-room to get some of that curious refreshment 
which is always provided there for the artists. They had 
scarcely begun to eat when the whole house rang with a 
trill of melody so clear and bird-like that the Miramella 
only drank half her glass of sherry, and Jacowski put down 
his sandwich — I don't wonder at it — untasted. We all 
rushed up stairs, and found that the singer was Miss Grace 
Lambert. She sang so exquisitely, and produced such an 
immense effect, that Madame Miramella was seized with 
one of her violent headaches, and was obliged to be taken 
home." 

Lord Sandilands was delighted. " Poor Miramella ! " 

said he, chuckling quietly, " and Ger and Miss Lambert 

was successful?" 

" Successful ! I have not heard such a combination of 
voice and style for years ! But I thought she was merely 



THE LINNET'S FIRST FLIGHT. 155 

an amateur, and had no idea she intended to take to the pro- 
fession.'' 

" Yes, she is determined to do so ; and as I take the 
greatest interest in her, I have come to ask your advice. 
Now, should she select the concert-room or the stage as 
her arena 1" 

" The stage ! the stage ! " cried Deloge excitedly ; "there 
can be no question about it, my dear lord ! With that 
personal appearance and that voice, she must have the 
whole world at her feet and make her fortune in a very 
few years. Any dumpy little woman who can sing toler- 
ably in tune and face an audience without the music in her 
hand visibly trembling, will do for a concert-room ; but 
this young lady has qualities which — Good heavens ! 
fancy the effect she'd make in Opera, with that head and 
that charming figure ! " 

" My good friend ! " said the delighted old nobleman, 
"you are becoming positively enthusiastic. In these days 
of total suppression of feelings, it does one good to hear 
you. I am charmed to see you think so highly of my 
protege. Now tell me, what's the first step to be taken 
towards bringing her out ? " 

<: I should let Munns hear her," said Mr. Deloge. 

And Lord Sandilands' face fell, and he looked very grave. 
Why 1 Well, the mention of Mr. Munns' name was the 
first thing that had jarred disagreeably on Lord Sandilands' 
ears and feelings in connection with Gertrude's intended 
adoption of the musical profession ; and it did jar. Why, 
Lord Sandilands knew perfectly, but could scarcely express. 

Who was Mr. Boulderson Munns 1 You might have 
asked the question in a dozen different sets of society, and 
received a different answer in each. What was his birth 
or parentage no one, even the veriest club scandal-monger, 
ever assumed to know ; and as to his education, he had 
none. He had been so long "before the public" that 
people had forgotten whence he came, or in what capacity 
his debut was made. Only a very few men remembered, or 
cared to remember, that when Peponelli's management of 
the Grand Scandinavian Opera came to smash disastrously, 
by reason of Miramella, Jacowski, Courtasson, and Herzo- 
genbusch, the celebrated singers, revolting and going over in 
u body to the Regent Theatre, the opposition house, Messrs. 



156 THE KOCK AHEAD. 

Mossop and Isaacson, of Thavies' Inn, put themselves in com- 
munication with the agents of the Earl of Haremarch, the 
ground landlord, and proposed their client, Mr. Bouldersou 
Munns, as tenant. Lord Haremarch's agent, old Mr. Finching- 
field, of New Square, Lincoln's Inn, looked askance through 
his double eye glass at Messrs. Mossop and Isaacson's letter. 
He had heard of those gentlemen, truly, and knew them to 
be in a very large way of business, connected generally with 
people " in trouble " — criminals and bankrupts. Of Mr. 
Boulderson Munns, the gentleman proposed as tenant, Mr. 
Finchingfield had never heard ; but on consulting with Mr. 
Leader, his articled clerk, a young gentleman who saw a 
good deal of " life," he learned that Mr. Munns had been 
for some time lessee of the Tivoli Gardens over the water, 
and was supposed to be a shrewd, clever, not too scrupulous 
man, who knew his business and attended to it. Mr. 
Finchingfield was a man of the world. " I don't know any- 
thing about such kind of speculations, and indeed it is 
strongly against my advice that my Lord Haremarch 
permits himself to be mixed up in such matters," he said. 
" But I should imagine that from a person tendering for a 
theatre, you do not require a certificate of character from 
the clergyman of his parish ; and if Mr. Munus is prepared 
to deposit a year's rent in advance, and to enter into the 
requisite sureties for the due performance of the various 
covenants of the lease, I see no reason why I should not 
recommend my lord to accept him as his tenant." And 
Mr. Leader, remembering this conversation, made a point of 
letting Mr. Munns know as soon as possible that if he, Mr. 
Munns, should get the theatre, it would be owing entirely 
to his, Mr. Leader's representations — a statement made by- 
Mr. Leader with a view to the future acquisition of gra- 
tuitous private boxes, and that much-coveted entree known 
as " going behind." 

So Mr. Boulderson Munns became the tenant of the 
Grand Scandinavian Opera House, and took up his position 
in society, which at once began to pick holes in his gar- 
ments, and to say all the unpleasant things it could against 
him. Some people said his name was not Boulderson at all, 
nor Munns much ; that his real appellation was Muntz, and 
that he was the son of a German Jew sugar-baker in St. 
George's-in-the East. People who professed to know said 



& 



the linnet's first flight. 157 

that Mr. Munns commenced his career in the useful though 
not-imich-thought-of profession of a chiropodist, which they 
called a corn-cutter, in which capacity he took in hand the 
feet of Polesco II Diavolo, the gentleman who made a rush- 
ing descent down a rope with fireworks in his heels at the 
Tivoli Gardens ; and that by these means the youthful 
Muntz was brought into relations with Waddle, who then 
owned the gardens, and to whom Muntz lent some of the 
money he had inherited from the parental sugar-baker, at 
enormous interest. When Waddle collapsed, Muntz first 
appeared as Munns, and undertook the management of the 
gardens, which he carried on for several years with great 
success to himself and gratification to the public — more 
especially to the members of the press, who were always 
free of the grounds, and many of whom were entertained at 
suppers — at which champagne — known to Mr. Munns by 
the name of " sham " — flowed freely. He was a genial, hos- 
pitable, vulgar dog, given, as are the members of his nation, 
to the wearing of rich-coloured velvet coats and waistcoats, 
and jewelry of a large and florid pattern, to the smoking 
of very big cigars, the driving of horses in highly-plated 
harness in mail-phaetons with wheels vividly picked out 
with red, to the swearing of loud and full-flavoured oaths, 
and to Richmond dinners on the Sunday. When he entered 
on the lesseeship of the Grand Scandinavian Opera House, 
he continued all these eccentricities of pleasure, but mixed 
with them some excellent business habits. On the secession 
of Miramella, Jacowski, and all the rest, the public pro- 
nounced the Scandinavian Opera to be utterly dead and 
done for ; but after the first few weeks of his season Mr. 
Munns produced Fraulein Brodchen, from the Stockholm 
Theatre, who fairly routed everyone else off their legs, and 
took London by storm. Never had been known such a 
triumph as that achieved by the Brodchen ; boxes and stalls 
fetched a fabulous price, and were taken weeks in advance. 
It began to be perceived that the right thing was that 
Norma should have bright red hair ; and people wondered 
how they had for so long endured any representative of 
Lucrezia without a turn-up nose. Miramella of the classic 
profile and the raven locks was nowhere. Jacowski the 
organ-voiced bellowed in vain. The swells of the Young- 
England party — guardsmen and impecunious youths, who 



158 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

were on the free list at the Regent — tried to get up an 
opposition ; but Munns ran over to Barcelona, and came 
back with the Senorita Ciaja, whose celebrated back-move- 
ment in the Cachuca finished the business. The people who 
really understood and cared for music were delighted with 
the Brodchen ; the occupants of the stalls and of the 
omnibus-box — crabbed age and youth, who, despite the old 
song, manage to live together sometimes, and on each other 
a good deal — revelled in the Ciaja, and the trick was done. 
Mr. Munns realised an enormous sum of money, and was 
spoken of everywhere as " a marvellous fellow ! a cad, sir, 
but a genius ! " 

He was a cad, there was no doubt of that. The Earl of 
Haremarch, who, with all his eccentricities, was a highly- 
polished gentleman, suffered for days after an interview with 
his tenant, who would receive him in his managerial room 
with open bottles of " sham," and " My lord " him until the 
wine had done its work, when he would call him " Hare- 
march, old fellar ! " with amiable frankness. He always 
addressed the foreign artists in English ; told them he didn't 
understand their d — d palaver, and poked them in the ribs, 
and slapped them on the back, until they ground their teeth 
and stamped their feet in inarticulate fury ; but his money 
was always ready when due, and his salaries were liberal, as 
well as promptly paid. The corps de ballet adored him, 
admired his velvet waistcoats, and screamed at his full- 
flavoured jokes. In person Mr. Munns was a short stout 
man, with an enormous chest, a handsome Hebraic face, 
with dyed beard and whiskers, and small keen eyes. 

To such a man as this Lord Sandilands, the polished old 
nobleman, had naturally a strong antipathy ; and yet Lord 
Sandilands was almost the only man of his clientele to whom 
Mr. Munns showed anything like real respect. " There's 
something about that old buffer," he would say, " which 
licks me ; " and he could not have paid a greater compli- 
ment. The Brodchen had retired into private life before 
this, and the Ciaja had gone to America on a starring tour ; 
but Mr. Munns had replaced them with other attractions, 
had well maintained his ground : and when Mr. Deloge told 
Lord Sandilands that from Mr. Munns it would be best to 
obtain the information and the opinion he sought, the old 
nobleman knew that the librarian was right ; though he 



THE LINNET'S FIRST FLIGHT. 15!) 

hated Mr. Munns from the bottom of his heart, yet he 
made up his mind to get the great impresario to hear Miss 
Grace Lambert, and determined to abide by his advice. 

So, one fine afternoon, the little road in which the pretty 
Bayswater villa was situated was thrown into a state of the 
greatest excitement by the arrival of the dashing phaeton, 
with the prancing horses in their plated harness ; and Mr. 
Boulderson Munns alighting therefrom, was received by 
Lord Sandilands and duly presented to Miss Lambert. 
After partaking somewhat freely — for he was a convivial 
soul — of luncheon and dry sherry — which wine he was 
pleased to compliment highly, asking the " figure " which it 
cost, and the name of the vendor — the great impresario 
was ushered into the drawing-room, where Signor Da Capo 
seated himself at the piano, and Gertrude, without the 
smallest affectation or hesitation, proceeded to sing. Mr. 
Munns, who had been present at many such inaugural 
attempts, seated himself near Lord Sandilands with a re- 
signed countenance ; but after a very few notes the aspect 
of his face entirely changed ; he listened with the greatest 
attention ; he beat time with his little podgy diamond- 
ringed fingers, and with his varnished boots ; and at the 
conclusion of the song, after a strident cry of " Brava ! 
brava ! " he winked calmly at the radiant nobleman, laid his 
finger alongside his nose, and whispered, " Damme, that'll 
do!" 

After a further hearing the great impresario expressed 
himself more fully, after his own symbolic fashion. 

" That's the right thing," said he ; " the right thing, and 
no flies ! or rather it will be the right thing a few months 
hence. — My dear," he continued, laying his hand on Ger- 
trude's arm, and keeping it there, though she shrank from 
his touch, "no offence, my dear; you've got the right stuff 
in you ! No doubt of that ! Now what we've got to do is 
to bring it out of you. Don't you make any mistake about 
it ; it's there, but it wants forcing. What's to force it ?' 
why, a mellower air and a few lessons reg'larly given by 
some one who knows all about it. No offence again to 
Da Capo here, who's a very good fellow — him and me un- 
derstand each other ; but this young lady wants some one 
bigger than him, and quiet and rest and freedom from 
London ways and manners. Let her go to Italy and stop 



160 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

there for nine months ; meanwhile, you and me, my lord, 
the Marsh'ness Carabas, and the rest of us, will work the 
oracle, and then she shall come back and come out at the 
Grand Scandinavian Opera House ; and if she ain't a 
success, I'll swallow my Lincoln and Bennett ! " 

There was a pause for a minute, and then Lord Sandilands 
said, — " Do you mean that Miss Lambert should make her 
debut on the Italian stage 1 " 

" Not a bit of it," shrieked Mr. Munns ; " keep her debut 
for here ! A gal like that, who can walk up to the piano 
and sing away before me, won't have any stage-fright, I'll 
pound it ! Let her go to Florence, to old Papadaggi — 
which you know him well, my lord, and can make it all 
square there ; let her take lessons of him, and make her 
debut with me. I'm a man of my word, as you know, and 
I see my way." 

Within a fortnight from that time Miles Challoner, who 
had been out of town, called at the Bayswater villa, found 
it in charge of a policeman and his wife, learned that 
Miss Lambert and Mrs. Bloxam had gone to Hit'iy for 
some months, and — went away lamenting. 



CHAPTER I X. 

SOARING. 

THE novelty of her life in Italy was full of charm for 
Gertrude. She was still so young that she could 
escape, in any momentary emotion of pleasure, from the 
hardening influence of the past, and the entire change of 
scene had almost an intoxicating effect upon her. Here 
was no association with anything in the past which could 
jDain, or in the present which might have the power to dis- 
concert her. Her husband's foot had never trodden the 
paths in which she wandered daily, with all the pleasure of 
a stranger and all the appreciation of natural beauty which 
formed a portion of her artistic temperament. He had 
never gazed upon the classic waters of the Arno, or roamed 
through the picture-galleries which afforded her such intense 
delight, and would have been almost without a charm for 



SOARING. 161 

his cynical materialistic nature. At least, if lie had ever 
visited Italy, Gertrude did not know it ; and with all her 
veiy real indifference, despite the wonderfully thorough 
enfranchisement of her mind and heart from the trammels 
of her dead-and-gone relation to him, Gertrude, with true 
womanly inconsistency, still occasionally associated him 
sufficiently with her present life to feel that distance from 
Gilbert Lloyd, that the strangeness of the unfamiliar places 
with which he was wholly unassociated, added to the reality 
of her sense of freedom, gave it zest and flavour. She un- 
derstood this inconsistency. " If I go on like this," she 
would think, " it will never do. I am much too near hating 
Lim at present to be comfortable. So long as he is not 
absolutely nothing to me, I am not quite free ; so long as I 
prefer the sense of the impossibility of my seeing him by 
any accident — so long as I am more glad to know that he 
is staying with Lord Ticehurst, and Lord Ticehurst's re- 
putable friends, than I should be to know that he was in 
the next house on the promenade — so long as either circum- 
stance has the smallest appreciable interest or importance 
for me — I am not free. I must regard him as so utterly 
nothing, that if I were to meet him to-morrow at the 
Cascine, or passing my door, it could have no importance, 
no meaning for me. I don't mean only in the external 
sense, of not appearing to agitate or concern me, but in the 
interior convictions of my own inmost heart. Such freedom 
I am quite resolved to have. It will come, I am sure, but 
not just yet. I am far too near to hating him yet." 

Gertrude had unusual power in the distribution of the 
subjects on which she chose to exercise her thinking faculty, 
and in the absolute and sustained expulsion from her mind 
of such topics as she chose to discard. This faculty was 
very useful to her now. There were certain phases and 
incidents of her life with Gilbert Lloyd which she never 
thought about. She deliberately put them out of her mind, 
and kept them out of it. Among these were the occur- 
rences which had immediately preceded the strange bargain 
which had been made between her and her husband. Of 
that bargain herself she thought with ever-growing satis- 
faction, remembering with complacent content the obscurity 
in which she had lived, which rendered such an arrange- 
ment possible, without risk of detection. But she never 

M 



162 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

travelled farther back in memory than the making of that 
bargain. So then she determined to carry it out to the 
fullest, to have all the satisfaction out of it she possibly 
could. " I am determined I will bring myself to such free- 
dom that the sight of him could not give me even an un- 
pleasant sensation — that the sound of his name announced 
in the room with me should have no more meaning for me 
than any other sound devoid of interest." 

Gertrude was more happily circumstanced now for the 
carrying out of this determination. All her surroundings 
were delightful and novel, she was in high health and spirits, 
and her prospects for the future were bright and near. The 
climate was enchanting, the hours and the ways of foreign 
life suited her ; and her masters pronounced her voice all 
that could be desired in the case of a daughter of sunny 
Italy, and something altogether admirable and extraordinary 
in the case of a daughter of foggy Albion. She worked very 
hard. She kept her ambition, her purpose steadily before 
her, and her efforts to obtain the power of gratifying it were 
unrelaxing. 

Hitherto Gertrude's experiences had been those only of 
a school-girl and a woman married to an unscrupulous man 
who lived by his wits. She had never been out of England 
before ; and the interval of her life at the villa, under the 
beneficial influence of the Carabas patronage, though very 
much pleasanter than anything she had before experienced, 
had not tended much to the enlargement and cultivation of 
her mind or the expansion of her feelings. But this foreign 
life did tend to both. She was entirely unfettered, and the 
sole obligation laid upon her was the vigilant precaution it 
was necessary she should observe against taking cold. It 
was in Gertrude's nature to prize highly this newly-acquired 
sense of personal freedom, and to enter with avidity into all 
that was strange in her life abroad. Her enjoyment of the 
difference between the habits and customs of Italy and those 
of England was unintelligible to Mrs. Bloxam, who had also 
never before been out of England, and who carried all the 
true British prejudice in favour of everything English with 
her. She could not be induced to admit the superiority of 
foreign parts, even in those lesser and superfluous respects 
to which it is generally conceded. " I cannot see," she re- 
marked to a sympathizing soul, whose acquaintance she had 



SOAEING. 1G3 

made shortly after her arrival — a lady held in foreign 
bondage by a tyrannical brother and his wife addicted to 
travel — " I cannot see, Miss Tyroll, that the new milk can 
be so much better. Just look at the cows ! I'm sure I've 
seen some at Hampstead twice the size ; and as for condition ! 
And then the bread again : how can we tell what stuff they 
put into it to make it white 1 At home, we know there's 
alum in it ; and that's the worst of it, and all about it. But 
here, I never dare think about it. Miss Lambert is quite 
foolish about violets ; and I don't deny it is very nice indeed 
to have them when you certainly could not in England, and 
I like them as well as any one ; but I don't know that it 
makes so much difference after all, in one's comfort, in the 
long run." 

" Certainly not," replied Miss Tyroll, who was a person 
of decisive mind and manners. " Foreign countries are much 
the best places for having things which you can very well 
do without ; but, for my part, I like England best. Don't 
you get very tired of marble and pillars and church-bells ? 
I do." 

" So do I," assented Mrs. Bloxam ; "and all the places one 
is obliged to go to are so large and bare." And then the 
two ladies discussed the subject just started at great length. 
Even the climate had little merit in the prejudiced estimation 
of Mrs. Bloxam. She had felt it quite as cold by the Arno 
as ever she had felt it by the Thames; and she thought the tra- 
montane/, was only a piercing wind with a pretty name. She 
had felt very much the same sort of thing in London, where 
she could take refuge from it in a snug room with warm 
curtains and a coal fire. She had no fancy for sitting with 
her feet baking over braise, and she had seen at Dulwich 
and Hampton Court pictures enough to satisfy all her aspi- 
rations after art. There was something educational in the 
way in which visitors to Florence — and, indeed, Gertrude 
herself — did the churches and the galleries which was rather 
oppressive to Mrs. Bloxam. She hated all that reminded 
her of the life of sordid toil she had lived through and freed 
herself from ; she did not like to learn anything, because 
she could not get rid of the feeling that by doing so she 
was exposing herself to the danger of having to teach it 
again. But all her personal discontent did not interfere 
with Mrs. Bloxam's interest in Gertrude, and did not render 

m 2 



164 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

her an unpleasant companion. She was not sympathetic ; but 
Gertrude had been little used to sympathy, and she did 
not greatly care about it — it never interfered with her enjoy- 
ment of anything, that she had to enjoy it alone. She did 
all in her power to make Mrs. Bloxam's life comfortable 
and happy, and she never interrupted or withheld her assent 
from the frequent reminiscences of Bayswater in which her 
friend indulged ; but she liked her life in Italy, and she 
entertained a strong conviction that, as she had never been 
so happy before (for she had come to regard the brief period 
of her love for Lloyd as an interval of hallucination), so the 
future could hardly bring her anything better. She had no 
doubts, no fears about success in her adopted profession. 
The favourable opinions which had been pronounced by 
competent judges in Eugland were confirmed and strength- 
ened by those to which she attached most value in Italy, 
and her progress was surprising to herself and her in- 
structors. 

The correspondence between Mrs. Bloxam and Lord 
Sandilands was frequent and suivie. Mrs. Bloxam was a 
clever letter-writer, and the recipient of her epistles found 
in them a source of interest which life had long lacked for 
him. If the young lady in whom he had discovered Ger- 
trude Gautier's daughter had been merely handsome, he 
would have been pleased with her, doubtless would have 
taken a kindly interest in her ; had she been only clever he 
would have felt a secret pride in her talent, and watched its 
manifestations with a hidden interest : but she was both 
handsome and clever, and highly gifted ; and all the feelings 
which, but for his own fault, he might once have declared 
and indulged openly, had been gratified to the fullest extent. 

As time went on, the " working of the oracle " was done 
in London by the impresario and his assistants in a masterlv 
fashion. The higher branch of the same industry was also 
conducted by the Marchioness of Carabas with all the 
success to which her ladyship was so well accustomed in her 
social manceuvrings. To such members of her coterie as 
understood her passionate devotion to art, her untirino- 
exertions in its interest, and to its professors, she spoke in 
raptures of her " dear Grace Lambert," carefully avoiding 
the distant precision of the " Miss " and the too fond 
familiarity of the " Grace ; " she read what she called " pet 



SOARING. 1C5 

bits" of her young protegees letters, winch were neither 
numerous nor lengthy ; predicted the future value of those 
precious autographs, and contrived to keep a nickering 
flame of interest in Grace Lambert alive, which her appear- 
ance would readily blow into a blaze. The steadiness of 
dear Lady Carabas to this " fancy," as her friends called it, 
created some astonishment among her circle. She was more 
remarkable for the vehemence than for the duration of her 
attachments. It had happened to many aspirants for fame, 
or for social success, or some other of the many objects 
which people think worth attainment, even if a little self- 
respect has to be sacrificed in the process, to find themselves 
somehow unaccountably set aside by Lady Carabas after a 
certain season of favour — happily, sometimes, long enough 
to have enabled them to extract from it all the profit they 
desired : not " dropped " — that is a rude proceeding, want- 
ing in finesse, quite unworthy of the Carabas savoir /aire — 
but calmly, imperceptibly set aside ; whereat the wise among 
the number were amused, and the foolish were savage. But 
Grace Lambert held her place even during her absence. 
There was something captivating to the fancy in the idea of 
the cultivation in '■' seclusion " of that great talent of which 
the world had got an inkling, under the auspices of Lady 
Carabas, and which would inevitably be a splendid testi- 
mony in the future to her judgment and taste. Thus, the 
way for her appearance and success in London being made 
plainer, easier, and pleasanter for her day by day, and the 
purpose of her sojourn in Italy fulfilled in a like ratio, time 
slipped away, and the period named for the return of Grace 
Lambert and Mrs. Bloxam — who hailed it with delight, 
and who now positively pined for Bayswater — drew near. 

There had not been seen such a house at the Grand 
Scandinavian Opera for years ; there had not been heard 
such long-continued thunders of applause, such rounds of 
cheering, since the Brodchen's debut. Lady Carabas and 
Mr. Munns had each "worked the oracle," according to 
their lights ; but the discrimination of her ladyship's 
friends rendered the managerial claque quite unnecessary. 
The opera was the Trovatore, and Gertrude's entrance a3 
Leonora was the signal for a subdued murmur of applause. 
People were too anxious to see and hear her to give vent to 



166 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

any loud expression of their feelings ; but when, with 
perfect composure, and without the smallest trace of ner- 
vousness in face or voice, the girl burst into the lovely 
" Tacea la notte," the connoisseurs knew that her success 
was accomplished ; and long before the enthusiastic roar 
surged forth at the conclusion of the air Mr. Boulderson 
Munns, who had been nervously playing with the ends of 
his dyed moustache, shut up his opera-glass, and said to his 

treasurer and alter-ego, Mr. William Duff, " By , Billy, 

she'll smash the other shop ! " 

The lobbies and the refreshment-room were emptying of 
the crowds which had been raving to each other after the 
first act of the beauty and talent of the debutante, when 
Lord Ticehurst, who had been among the loudest demon- 
strators in the omnibus-box, whither he was returning, met 
Gilbert Lloyd quietly ascending the stairs. 

" Only just come in 1 " asked his lordship. 

" Only this instant ; straight from Arlington Street ; it's 
all right about Charon." 

" O, d — n Charon ! " said Lord Ticehurst ; " you've 
missed the most splendid reception — Miss Grace Lambert, 
you know ! " 

" My dear fellow, I know nothing — except that Lady 
Carabas insisted on my going to her box to-night, to hear a 
new singer." 

" There never was such a cold-blooded fish as you, Gilbert ! 
Now be quick, and you'll be in time to see her come on in 
the second act ! " 

Gilbert Lloyd walked very leisurely to Lady Carabas' 
box on the grand tier, and received his snubbing for being 
late with due submission. When the roar of applause 
announced the reappearance of the evening's heroine, he 
looked up still leisurely ; but the next instant his glass 
was fixed to his eyes, and then his hand shook and his 
cheeks were even whiter than usual, and his nether-lip was 
firmly held by his teeth, as iu Miss Grace Lambert, the 
successful debutante, he recognized his wife. 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 107 



§00k % Sbttavto. 



CHAPTER I. 

PROGRESS. 

MR. BOI7LDERSON MUNJSTS was right in the remark 
which he made to his treasurer and fidus Achates, 
Mr. William Duff, in regard to Miss Grace Lambert's 
success, and to the effect which it would have on the future 
of the opposition opera-house. That very night the triumph 
was achieved. Ladies who " looked in for a minute " at 
various balls and receptions after the opera talked to each 
other of no one but the new singer ; the smoking-rooms of 
the clubs rang with her praises. Schrink, the humpbacked 
critic of the Statesman, went off straight to the Albion in 
Drury Lane ; called for some hot brandy-and-water and a 
pen and ink ; seated himself in his accustomed box, into 
which no one else dared intrude, and dashed off something 
which, when it appeared in print the next morning, proved 
to be an elaborate and scholarly eulogy of the new singer. 
The other journals were equally laudatory, and the result 
of the general commendation was soon proved. The box- 
office was besieged from morning till night ; boxes and 
stalls were taken for weeks in advance ; crowds began to 
collect round the pit and gallery doors at three o'clock in 
the afternoon, and remained there, increasing in size and 
turbulence, until the doors were opened ; while the fugitive 
Miramella and the recreant Jacowski were singing away for 
dear life at the Regent Theatre, to empty benches. The 
fact of Miss Lambert's being an Englishwoman was with 
many people a great thing in her favour. Old people who 
recollected Miss Paton, and middle-aged people who still 
raved about Miss Adelaide Kemble, hurried off to see the 
young lady who had succeeded to the laurels orat won so 



168 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



gallantly and worn so gracefully by these two great English 
singers, and came back loud in her praise. The Mirror — 
the weekly journal of theatricals and music — uplifted its 
honest, ungrammatical, kindly voice in favour of the 
debutante, and gossipped pleasantly of Kitty Stephens, 
Vestris, and the few other Englishwomen who have ever 
sung in time and tune. The Illustrated News published 
Miss Lambert's portrait on the same page with the portrait 
of the trowel with which the Mayor of Mudfog had laid 
the foundation-stone of the Mudfog Infirmary ; and the 
Penny Woodcutter reproduced the engraving which had 
previously done duty as Warawaki, Queen of the Tonongo 
Islands, and subscribed Miss Lambert's name to it. A very 
gorgeous red-and-white engraving of the new singer figured 
also on the " Grace Yalse," inscribed to her by her obedient 
humble servant Luigi Vasconi, who was leader of the 
orchestra of Mr. Munns' establishment, and who played 
first fiddle under the renowned conductor, Signor Cocco ; 
while the enterprising hosier in the Arcade under the 
opera-house produced a new style of neck-tie which he 
christened " The Lambert," and of which he would pro- 
bably have sold more had the Arcade been anything of a 
thoroughfare. As it was, the young man who kept the 
books of Messrs. Octave and Finings, the wine merchants, 
and who was known to have plunged madly into love with 
the new singer when he went in once with a gallery order, 
sported a " Lambert," and led the fashionable world of 
Lamb's Conduit Street in consequence. 

Was this fame 1 It was notoriety, at all events. To have 
your portrait in all the photograph-shops and the illustrated 
journals ; to see your name blazing in large type, in every 
newspaper, and on every hoarding and dead wall of London ; 
to read constant encomiastic mention of yourself in what 
are called, or miscalled, the organs of public opinion ; to be 
pointed out by admiring friends to other admiring friends 
in the streets ; to be the cynosure of crowds ; to be the butt 
of the Scarifier — when some artist or contributor to that 
eminent journal has seen you on horseback while he was on 
foot, or seen you clean while he was dirty, or heard you 
praised while he was unnoticed — these are the recognitions 
of popularity received by art-workers, be they writers, or 
painters, or actors. Not very great, not very ennobling, 



PROGRESS. 169 

perhaps, but pleasant — confess it, O my sisters and brethren 
in art ! Pleasanter to earn hundreds by the novel, or the 
picture, or the acting — imperfect though each may be in its 
way — which shall cause thousands to think kindly of us, 
than to receive two guineas for verbal vitriol-throwing in 
the Scarifier ; pleasanter than to stand up, earning nothing 
at all, to be howled at night after night by the vinous 
members of the opposite political party, and to be switched 
morniDg after morning by their press-organs ; pleasanter 
than to go for forty years for six hours a day to the Tin-tax 
Office, and at last to arrive at six hundred a year, with the 
chance of receiving a pension of two-thirds of the amount, 
if you prove by medical certificate that you are thoroughly 
worn out ! That worn, grey old gentleman going in to 
enjoy the joint, and the table, and a pint of sherry at the 
Senior United, lost his youth and his hopes and his liver in 
India, and in a few years may perhaps get — just in time to 
leave it to his heir — the prize-money which he won a quarter 
of a century ago ; that Irish gentleman with a chin-tuft 
has sold the last of his paternal acres to carry him through 
his third election, and may possibly obtain from the Govern- 
ment, which he has always earnestly supported, a commis- 
sionership of five hundred a year. We can do better than 
that, we others ! So, let us say, with the French actress, 
' ; Qiion leur donne des grimaces pour leur argent et vivons 
heureux /" and in a modified and anglicized sense, " Vivela 
vie de Boheme ! " 

Did Gertrude care much for this kind of cheap incense 
burnt in her honour 1 Truth to tell, she cared for it very 
little indeed. When she accepted the stage instead of the 
concert-room for her career, she was influenced, as we have 
seen, by an idea of the brilliancy of her triumph, should she 
succeed ; but that triumph once secured, there was an end 
to such feeling in the matter, so far as she was personally 
concerned. She took it all in a perfectly business-like man- 
ner ; it was good, she supposed, for the theatre that she had 
succeeded. Gratified? O yes, of course, she was gratified ; 
but when people came and told her there had never been 
anything heard like her, she was compelled to show them 
that, in accepting professional singing for her livelihood, she 
had not quite abnegated any pretension to common sense. 
"W ith the exception of devoting the necessary tiroe to re- 



170 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

hearsals and study, her time was spent very much as it was 
before her departure to Italy. The drawing-room of the 
little Bayswater villa was gorgeous and fragrant with anony- 
mous bouquets, offerings left the previous night at the stage- 
door ; but Miss Lambert had not made one single new ac- 
quaintance since the night of her debut. Occasionally on 
" off-nights " she would be seen at Carabas House, or at one 
or two of the other houses which she had been in the habit 
of visiting before the commencement of her professional 
career ; but though she was inundated with invitations, 
she steadfastly refused to increase her visiting-list ; and the 
lion-hunters, male and female, in vain sought to get her 
to their houses, and equally in vain sought admittance to 
hers. 

To none was she a greater enigma than to her manager,. 
Mr. Boulderson Munns. Proud of her success, and disposed 
in his open-hearted vulgarity to testify to her his apprecia- 
tion of it, that liberal gentleman purchased a gaudy and 
expensive diamond-bracelet, had an appropriate inscription 
in gilt letters put on to its morocco-leather case, and sent it 
to Miss Grace Lambert. The next morning, bracelet, case 
and all were laid on the managerial table, with a little note 
from Miss Lambert, thanking Mr. Munns very sincerely for 
his kindness, but declining the present on the grounds that 
Miss Lambert was doing no more than fulfilling the terms 
of her engagement, and adding, that if Mr. Munns had 
found that engagement profitable, the time to show his ap- 
preciation of it would be when they came to settle terms 
for the next season. There was a combination of inde- 
pendence and business in this reply, which tickled Mr. 
Munns exceedingly. At first he was annoyed at the note, 
read it with a portentous frown, and strode up and down 
his room, plucking at the dyed whiskers wrathfully. But 
by the time Mr. Duff arrived with his usual budget of letters 
to be read, bills to be paid, questions to be asked, &c, the 
great impresario had softened down wonderfully, and had 
forgotten his rage at what he at first imagined the slight 
put upon him by his new singer in his impossibility to com- 
prehend her. 

" I can't make her out, Billy," said he, " and that's the 
fact. I've known 'em of all kinds ; but she licks the lot- 
Look here at her letter ! She won't have that bracelet, 



PROGRESS. 171 

Bilh' — just shove it into the strong-box, will you? we can 
get "the inscription altered, and it'll do for somebody else — 
and talks about fresh terms for next season. Beg'lar know- 
ing little shot, ain't she ? Quiet little devil, too ; wouldn't 
come down to my garden-party at Teddington, on Wednes- 
day, though I had the Dook and Sir George, and a whole 
lot of 'em dyin' to be introduced to her. ' No go, your 
Grace ! ' I said, ' she won't come ; but when Venus is bashful 
let's stick to Bacchus, who's always our friend.' I haven't 
had a classical education, Billy, but I think that was rather 
neat ; and so they did, and punished the ' sham ' awfully. 
However, it's all good for trade. She and that old cat, her 
aun t — not her aunt 1 well, Bloxam ; you know who I mean 
— go about to Lady Carabas', and all the right sort of people, 
and the more she won't know the wrong sort of people, the 
more they want to know her, and the 'let's' tremendous. 
The other shop's done up, sir ; chawed up, smashed ! Mac- 
Bone and Ivory and D61oge, and the rest of 'em tell me they 
can't sell a stall for the Begent ; and I hear that Miramella 
threatened Jacowski with a fork at dinner the other day, 
because he spoke of Miss Lambert, and swore she'd go to 
America. Best thing she could do, stupid old fool ! " 

Although this feeling in regard to Miss Lambert was 
perhaps nowhere expressed in language so strongly sym- 
bolical as that used by Mr. Munns, there is no doubt that 
it was generally felt. There is a certain class of artist- 
patronizing society which has the mot d'ordre of the siffleurs 
b»x, and revels in the gossip of the coulisses. These worthy 
persons were in the habit of talking to each other constantly 
of the new prima donna — how she came in "a regular fly, 
my dear ; " how she was always dressed in black silk, " made 
quite plain, and rather dowdy;" how she was always ac- 
companied by the same old lady, who, whether at rehearsal 
or in the evening, never left her side ; and how, with the 
exception of Lord Sandilands, with whom she seemed to be 
very intimate, she entered into conversation with no one 
during the performance ; — in all which things Miss Grace 
Lambert differed very much from Madame Miramella, who 
— depending on the kind of temper in which she might 
happen to be — alternated between the most gorgeous 
garments and the most miserable chiffons ; between a 
coroneted brougham with a five-huudred-guinea pair of 



172 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

horses, and a four-wheeler cab ; between the loveliest com- 
plexion, and the most battered old parchment mask ; be- 
tween the most queenlike courtesy to all around her in the 
theatre, and the use of French and Italian argot-abuse, 
which fortunately was incomprehensible to those to whom 
it was addressed. In this society Lord Sandilands was far 
too well-known for the smallest breath of scandal ever to 
attach to Miss Lambert's name by reason of his intimacy 
with her. People remembered how devoted he had been to 
the Rossignol — who died, poor lady, in the height of her 
success — who had the voice of an angel, and the face of a 
little sheep ; how he had fought an uphill fight for Miss 
Laverock until he had seen her properly ranked in her pro- 
fession ; how he had always been the kind and disinterested 
friend of musical talent. They wondered that somebody 
else did not arrive, some English duke, some Italian prince, 
some millionaire, and bear her away as Madame Sontag, 
Miss Chester, Miss Stephens, and Madame Duvernay had 
been borne away before her. She was " thoroughly proper, 
my dear," they told each other in confidence ; and the 
obvious result of propriety being marriage, they waited for 
that result with great impatience. 

The successful debut of the young lady whom the world re- 
garded as his protegee, but whom he in his secret soul acknow- 
ledged as his daughter, had given Lord Sandilands unmiti- 
gated satisfaction. Unmitigated, because his worldly know- 
ledge had given him sufficient insight into Gertrude's character 
to enable him to perceive that she could ride in safety over 
billows and through tempests in which a less evenly-ballasted 
bark would inevitably suffer shipwreck ; to perceive that 
the triumph which she had achieved would leave her head 
unturned ; while in the position which she had gained, her 
heart would be just as much at her command as it was 
when she first surprised society in the drawing-room of 
Carabas House. So, thoroughly happy, the old nobleman 
permeated society, listening with eager ears to all comments 
on Miss Grace Lambert. He heard them everywhere. 
Steady old boys at the Portland had heard of the new 
singer from their " people," and intended, the first evening 
they had to spare, to make one in the family-box, and hear her. 
Fast men, young and old, at the Arlington, relaxing their 
great minds — neque arcum semper tendit Apollo — between 



& 



PROGRESS. 



173. 



turf-talk and whist-playing, spoke of her in exaggerated 
laudation. In many of the houses where he had formerly 
been accustomed to drop in with tolerable regularity, he 
had renewed the habit since Gertrude's arrival in London ; 
pleasant, genial, hospitable houses, all the more genial that 
neither frisky matrons, nor foolish virgins, nor gilded youth, 
were to be reckoned among the component parts of the 
society to be found in them ; and there he found that Miss 
Lambert was universally popular. A very great lady, in- 
deed — one who held herself, and, truth to tell, was generally 
held, far above the Carabas set, or any other of the kind — 
no less a lady than the Dowager Duchess of Broadwater — 
wrote to Lord Sandilands, saying that she had heard very 
much of Miss Lambert, and hoping that through Lord 
Sandilands' influence the young lady might be induced to 
come and see an old woman who never went out. If you 
have studied polite society and its Bible — the Peerage— you 
will know that the dowager duchess is the widow of that 
good, kind duke who was nothing more than the best 
landlord, and the most perfectly representative English 
nobleman of his time ; who reduced the rents of his tenants, 
and built model cottages for his labourers, and loved music 
next to his wife, and composed pretty little pieces, which 
were played with much applause at the Ancient Concerts. 
A stately gentleman, tall, clean shaven, with his white hair 
daintily arranged, with his blue coat, buff waistcoat, and 
tight grey trousers in the morning ; his culotte courte, black 
silk stockings, and buckled shoes in evening attire. His 
son, the present duke, wears a rough red beard, buys his 
frieze shooting- coat and sixteen-shilling trousers from a 
cheap tailor, smokes a short pipe, and talks like a stable- 
man. His mother, who adores him — he adores her, let us 
confess, and is as soft and docile with her as when he was 
a child — looks at him wonderingly ; she is of the vieille 
cour, and cannot understand the " lowering " tone of the 
present day. Grande dame as she is, she relaxes always 
towards the professors of that art which her husband so 
loved ; and when Miss Lambert was brought to her by 
Lord Sandilands, and sang two little convent airs which the 
old lady recollected having heard, ah, how many years ago ! 
she drew the girl towards her, and with streaming eyes 
ki-ssed her forehead, and bade her thank God for the great 



lli THE ROCK AHEAD. 

talent which He had bestowed upon her, and which ought 
always to be used in His service. After that interview, 
Gertrude saw a great deal of the old duchess, who always 
received her with the greatest affection, and introduced her 
to the small circle of intimate acquaintances by which she 
was surrounded. 

And Lady Carabas, who was necessarily apprised of all 
that happened in Grace Lambert's life, was by no means 
annoyed at, or jealous of her protegee's introduction to the 
Dowager Duchess of Broadwater, of whom, in truth, her 
ladyship stood somewhat in awe ; not that she ever confessed 
this for an instant, speaking of her always as a "most 
charming person," and " quite the nicest old lady of the 
day ;" but having at the same time an inward feeling that the 
" charming person," though always perfectly polite, did not 
reciprocate the respect which Lady Carabas professed, and, 
indeed, really felt for her. The dowager duchess's society 
was as rigidly exclusive as Lady Carabas' was decidedly 
mixed ; and the platonic liaisons into which the Mar- 
chioness's Soul was always leading her were regarded with 
very stony glances from under very rigid eyebrows by the 
Broadwater faction. Lady Carabas had somewhat more 
than a dim idea of all this, and had quite sufficient sense of 
the fitness of things to be aware that it was more politic 
in her to accept the position than to fight against it — to 
know that for a recognized protegee of hers to be received 
by the Broadwater clique tacitly reflected credit on her ; 
and so, while she shrugged her shoulders when she heard of 
Lady Lowndes, and undisguisedly expressed her scorn at 
the attempts made by other lion-hunters to get hold of 
Gertrude, she warmly congratulated Lord Sandilands on 
the Broadwater connection, and redoubled her praises of Miss 
Lambert's voice and virtues. These laudations, skilfully 
served, as a woman of Lady Carabas' worldly experience alone 
knows how to express them, were always well received by 
the old nobleman, who could not hear too much in Ger- 
trude's favour, and who day by day felt himself growing 
fonder of her, and more thoroughly associated with her plans 
and her welfare. 

And there was one other person to whom this lady was 
equally enchanting, who never wanted the song pitched in 
any other key, who listened in rapt delight so long as he 



PROGRESS. 175 

was allowed to listen, and gaze, and dream — Miles Challoner, 
who had left town so soon as he found the pretty Bayswater 
villa deserted, on Gertrude's departure for Italy. He had 
no further tie to London, and cared not to remain haunting 
the neighbourhood of the nest whence his " bird with the 
shining head " had fled. He became suddenly convinced of 
the utter emptiness of metropolitan existence, and expa- 
tiated thereon to Lord Sandilands in a way which greatly 
amused the old nobleman. He declared that these nine- 
teenth-century views of life were false and wrongly based ; 
that half the vices and shortcomings of the provincial poor 
and the labouring classes were due to the absenteeism of the 
landlords, who by example should lead their inferiors. The 
holder of an estate, Miles said, be it small or large, had 
duties which should keep him among his people. He felt 
that he had neglected these duties ; and though he was not 
specially cut for a country gentleman's life, he knew that he 
ought to go down to Rowley Court, and do his best to get 
on in that sphere of life to which he had been called. The 
young man said all this with great earnestness, for at the 
moment he really believed it ; and he was half inclined to 
be angry when Lord Sandilands, who had listened to the 
rhapsody with a grave and attentive face, could contain 
himself no longer, but broke into a smile as he said that he 
thought Miles perfectly right, " particularly as the shooting 
season was coming on." So Miles left London, and went 
to his old ancestral home. The bright bountiful beauty of 
summer still decked the woods and fields ; the old servants 
and the villagers vied with each other in welcoming the 
young squire ; and Miles felt that he had done rightly in 
following what he was pleased to call the dictates of his 
conscience, in coming back. The small sum of money 
which he had expended on the estate had been judiciously 
laid out, and improvement was manifest everywhere — in 
heavy crops, mended fences, and common land drained and 
reclaimed ; in repaired outhouses, and shooting properly 
preserved ; and, better than all, in a higher class of 
tenantry, and larger rents. Miles Challoner had never felt 
the pleasant sense of proprietorship until this visit to his 
home. He walked round his fields, he stood on little 
vantage points and surveyed his estate, with an inward 
feeling of pride which he did not care to check. It was 



176 TIIE ROCK AIIEAD. 

something to be an English, country gentleman, after all. 
He had been nothing and no one in London, a hanger-on, 
a unit in the great social stream — no better than a dancing 
barrister, or a flirting clerk in a government office ; two- 
thirds of the people he visited knowing his name, and that 
he had been properly introduced to them by some account- 
able person, but nothing more. While here he was the 
young squire ; as he passed, the "hat was plucked from the 
slavish villager's head ; " everybody knew him, and was 
anxious to be seen by him ; he was the man of the place, 
and — yes it would not be difficult to make out one's life in 
that position ; not as a bachelor, of course, but provided he 
had some one with him. Some one 1 No difficulty in 
finding her ! If he knew the language of laughing eyes, 
Emily Walbrook would not object to become the mistress 
of Rowley Court. And with her father Sir Thomas's 
money what might not be done 1 The old place might be re- 
habilitated, the lost lands recovered, the old dignity of the 
family restored. 

But Miles Challoner, being a gentleman and not an 
adventurer, told himself, after very little self-examination, 
that he did not care for Miss Walbrook, and that he never 
could care for her, consequently that he would be a scoun- 
drel to think of proposing for her hand ; told himself 
further that he only did care and only had cared — apart 
from some boyish follies which had not done him nor any 
one else any harm — for one person in the world, Grace 
Lambert. Did she care for him ? He did not know ; but, 
honestly, he thought she did not. And if she did, should 
he bring her there, to Rowley Court, as his wife ? Did he 
care for her sufficiently to suffer the universal inquiries as 
to who she was, the generally uplifted eyebrows and super- 
cilious remarks when the reply was given 1 At present 
she was only known as a young lady received in excellent 
society on account of her musical talents ; but if this 
report was true — this report that she had gone to 
Italy with the intention of perfecting herself as a 
singer on the operatic stage ? A singer ? The stage ? 
The general and only notion of the stage in the neigh- 
bourhood of Rowley Court was founded on reminiscences 
of the travelling troupe of mummers who had once or twice 
come to Bleakholme Fair ; poor half-starved creatures, who 



PROGRESS. 177 

had performed a dismal tragedy in an empty barn, by the 
lirjlit of a hoop of guttering tallow candles. How could he 
prepare the Boeotian mind of Gloucestershire to receive as 
his wife a woman who would bring with her such associa- 
tions as these 1 What would be said by the old county 
neighbours, by whom the old Challoner name was yet held 
in the highest respect and regard 1 What by the wealthy 
new-comers, whose influence was day by day increasing, 
and who gave themselves airs of pride and position and 
exclusiveness far more intolerable than the loftiest hauteur 
of the real territorial seigneurie ? Poor Miles ! and after 
all — even if he had made up his mind to brave all the out- 
cry that might arise ; to say, " I love this woman, and I 
bestow on her my rank and my position ; accept her as my 
■wife, or leave her alone ; think as you please, talk as you 
please, and go to the deuce !" — he was by no means certain 
that Miss Grace Lambert would see the magnitude of the 
sacrifice he was making for her, or, indeed, that she would 
have anything to say to him. 

That was a dull winter for Miles Challoner, that duty 
season when he steadfastly went through the character of the 
English country gentleman, to the tolerable satisfaction of 
his neighbours and his tenants, but to his own intense dis- 
gust. He hunted twice a week, he shot constantly ; he 
attended church regularly, and kept rigidly awake during 
the dear old vicar's dull sermons ; he gave two or three 
dull bachelor dinners, where the vicar, the curate, little Dr. 
Barford, and two or three neighbouring fox-hunting squires, 
ate and drank, and prosed wearily for three or four hours ; 
and he went out occasionally. He dined with Lord 
Boscastle, the lord-lieutenant and principal grandee of the 
county, where he met all " the best people," but where his 
attention was principally concentrated on his hostess ; for 
Lady Boscastle was nee Amelia Milliken, and, as Amelia 
Milliken, had been the great attraction for two seasons at 
the Theatre Royal, Hatton Garden, during the lesseeship 
of the great Wuff. Miles could hardly realize to himself 
that the mild, elegant, dried-up, farinaceous-looking old 
lady had been the incomparable actress who, as he had 
heard his father relate, entered so thoroughly into her art 
that she would shed real scalding tears upon the stage ; 
and whose Juliet yet remained in the memory of old 

N 



178 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

playgoers as the most perfect impersonation ever witnessed. 
She was an actress when Lord Boscastle married her ; and 
see her now, with a cabinet minister on her right hand, and 
the best families of the county honoured by her inter- 
course ! "Why could not he do the same with Grace 
Lambert ? And then Miles recollected that he was not so 
great a man as Lord Boscastle, had not the same weight and 
prestige ; remembered also that he had heard his father say 
that Lady Boscastle made her way very slowly into the 
county society ; that she had an immense number of 
disagreeables to contend with at first; and that it was 
only the sweetness of her disposition, and her wonderful 
patience and forbearance, that carried her through. And 
though Miles Challoner was undoubtedly in love with Miss 
Lambert, he scarcely thought that sweetness of disposition, 
patience, and long-suffering were the virtues in which she 
specially excelled. Miles also dined with Sir Thomas 
Walbrook, where there was much more display and 
formality than at Lord Boscastle' s — only that the display 
was in bad taste, and the formality betokened ill-breeding ; 
and he went to a hunt-ball, and tried to attend the- 
weekly meetings of a whist-club, but broke down in the 
attempt. In the daytime he did not fare so badly ; for 
he was full of life and health, and the love for field-sports 
which had distinguished him when a boy came back 
renewed when he again joined in those sports ; but in the 
long evenings he moped and moaned, and was dreadfully 
bored. 

The fact is that, however much he endeavoured to per- 
suade himself to the contrary, he was in love with Miss 
Grace Lambert ; and the more persistently he turned his 
thoughts from that young lady, the more he found himself 
taking interest in persons and things associated with her. 
He corresponded regularly with Lord Sandilands, and his 
every letter contained some inquiry after or allusion to 
"your young friend in Italy." The old nobleman chuckled 
over the frequency and the tone of these letters, but replied 
to them regularly, and invariably said something about 
Grace ; something, too, which he thought would please the 
recipient of the letter, for he loved Miles with fatherly 
affection ; and, if Gertrude saw fit, nothing would have 
pleased him better than that the two young people should 



TROGRESS. , 179 

make a match of it. That, however, was entirely for 
Gertrude to determine ; and nothing could come of it yet 
at all events, as she had the stage career before her. Mean- 
time, there was no reason why pleasant reports of her 
progress should not go down to Rowley Court. And whe n 
Miles received the letters, he ran his eye over them hu 
riedly to see where the name appeared, and read those bits 
first, and re-read them, and then dropped very coolly and 
leisurely into the perusal of his old friend's gossip. 

He was a queer, odd fellow, though, this Miles Challoner, 
full of that dogged determination which we call " British," 
and are extremely proud of (though, like the man who 
" treated resolution," in the end we often do the thing 
which we have so stubbornly refused to do) ; and although 
he knew that Miss Lambert had returned, and was about 
making her debut in public, he remained stationary at 
Bowley Court. He received letters regularly from Lord 
Sandilands, but none of them ever contained a hint or sug- 
gestion that he should come up to town ; indeed, Miles 
guessed that Miss Lambert would be far too much occupied 
to admit of his seeing her, and he had said he would " give 
that up " — " that " being the guiding motive of his life, 
and he would hold to it. So Miles Challoner was not in 
the Grand Scandinavian Opera-house on the night when 
Gertrude made her triumphal entry into theatrical life. 
But when, the next day, he read the flaming accounts of 
her success in the newspapers ; when he received letters 
from Lord Sandilands and other friends, filled with ravings 
about her voice, her beauty, and her elegance ; when he felt 
that this fresh flame would enormously increase the circle 
of her admirers, many of whom might have the chance — 
which they would not neglect as he was neglecting it — of 
personal acquaintance with her — he could withstand the 
influence no longer, but made immediate arrangements for 
returning to London. 

His old friend received him with his accustomed warmth, 
talked about the length of time he had been away, and 
rallied him on the probable cause of his detention. "I 
know, my dear boy ! " said Lord Sandilands ; " I know all 
about what you're going to tell me, — the pleasure a man 
feels in his own terre ; the delightful days you used to have 
with Sir Peter's pack ; the unequalled cover-shooting, and 

N 2 



180 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

all the rest of it. Those things don't keep a young man 
down in the country, leading that frightful dead-alive 
existence which we try to think pleasant. I know all 
about it ; and I know that there's nothing more horrible. 
There must be beaux yeux somewhere, when a man volun- 
tarily accepts that kind of life ; and, by Jove ! it's a kind of 
life to make one find the most ordinary eyes beaux. That 
confounded country life has produced more mesalliances, 
and more — hem ! What are you going to do with yourself 
to-day 1 " The old nobleman stopped his discourse abruptly, 
with the reflection, perhaps, that mesalliances scarcely fitted 
him for a theme. Answering him, Miles said that he 
had nothing to do, and that he was entirely at his friend's 
disposal. 

"Then," said Lord Sandilands, "suppose we stroll out 
Bayswater way ? You have not seen Miss Lambert for a 
loDg time now, though you know — for I wrote to you, and 
you must have heard in a hundred other places — of her 
success. Really, the greatest thing for years. Everybody 
enchanted ; and, best of all, has not made the smallest 
difference in her ; just the same unaffected, quiet, unpre- 
tending girl as when we met her that first night — don't you 
recollect ? — at Carabas House." 

They walked across Kensington Gardens and speedily 
reached the by-road in which Miss Lambert's pretty villa 
was situated. Up and down this road, fretting against the 
slowness of the pace allowed them, stepping grandly, and 
sending the foam in flying flakes around them, were a pair 
of horses in a handsome mail-phaeton, driven by a correctly- 
appointed groom. 

" Mr. Munns here ! " said Lord Sandilands, testily, as this 
sight broke upon him. " Horribly vexing, when we hoped 
to have the young lady all to ourselves, eh, Miles ? A 
worthy man, Mr. Munns, but a dreadful vulgarian. Tell 
me, is it my short-sightedness, or has this fellow really 
mounted a cockade in his man's hat ? " 

" There certainly is a cockade in the man's hat," said 
Miles, with a smile which died away as, on a nearer 
approach, he added, " and a coronet on the harness." 

" A coronet ? Why, the man can never have been ass 
enough to — eh 1 dear me, impossible ! Whose phaeton's 
that, sir, eh ? " 



PROGRESS. 181 

" Earl of Ticehurst's, my lord ! " said the groom, touching 
his hat ; " lordship's in there, my lord," pointing to the viUa 
with his whip, " with her ladyship." 

" With her ladyship ! " echoed Lord Sandilands in 
Lcwilderment. " Let us go in, Miles, and see what it all 
means." 

They saw what it all meant when they found Lady 
Carabas talking about education to Mrs. Bloxam in the 
drawing-room, and saw Lord Ticehurst walking with Miss 
Lambert round the little garden. Lord Sandilands frowned 
very gloomily, but Lady Carabas made straight at him. She 
had been dying to see dear Miss Lambert; she wanted so to 
see how she bore her success — ah, what a success ! — and how 
charming she is over it all ! not changed in the smallest 
degree. And her own horses were regularly knocked up 
with all their work just now ; and as it was such a long way 
(fashionable people think anything west of Apsley House or 
north of Park Lane quite out of bounds), she had asked her 
nephew Etchingham to drive her over. Lord Sandilands 
bowed very grimly, and Miles Challoner then came forward. 
Lady Carabas was enchanted to see him ; rallied him on his 
absence on the night of the debut ; hoped to have him con- 
stantly at Carabas House, and was overwhelmingly gracious. 
Then Lord Ticehurst and Gertrude came in, and after a few 
conventional remarks, the young patrician, after a casual 
glance out of the window, informed his aunt that "the 
chestnuts had already stamped up the road into a regular 
ploughed field, by Jove ! and that, as the parish would pro- 
bably send in the paving-bill, perhaps the best thing they 
could do was to be off ; " and accordingly he and Lady 
Carabas retired, with many adieux. 

When they were gone, Lord Sandilands approached 
Gertrude and congratulated her with mock solemnity on her 
new acquaintance. " You have achieved an earl, my dear 
child, and there is no saying now what you may not aspire. 
Charles the Fifth picking up Titian's pencil will be equalled 
by Lord Ticehurst's turning over the leaves of your music- 
book for you. Or in time we might get a duke to " 

" We want no higher member of the peerage than a baron, 
apparently, to render his order ridiculous," said Gertrude, 
turning upon him with a sarcastic bow and a little moue. 
" Don't be angry, dear friend," she continued ; " but I own 



182 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

I cannot stand raillery where Lord Ticehurst is concerned. 
I have no doubt he means well— I am sure of it ; all he 
says is genuine, and, so far as he can make it, polite ; but 
he is very silly and very slangy, and — I can't endure him. 
— And now, Mr. Challoner, tell me of all your doings during 
your long absence in the country." 

Lord Sandilands had a great deal to say to Mrs. Bloxam 
on the subject of any future visits which Lord Ticehurst 
might wish to pay to the Bayswater villa, and said it 
pointedly, and without circumlocution. When he rejoined 
the young people, he found them deep in conversation, and 
Miles, at least, looking very happy. 



CHAPTER II. 

INTEGRATIO AMORIS. 

WHEN Gilbert Lloyd satisfied himself that the new 
opera-singer, at whose most successful debut he had 
" assisted," was none other than his wife, the momentary 
agitation which had so shaken him passed away, and he sat 
himself down at the back of Lady Carabas' box — not in the 
chair usually reserved for the controller for the time being 
of the Soul, but in a more retired position — and gave himself 
up, as any uninterested auditor might have done, to listening 
to the singing. He had never been particularly fond of 
music, and though he had always known that his wife pos- 
sessed a fine voice, and had even at one time taken into con- 
sideration the probable profits which would accrue were he 
to exploiter her musical talent, he had never imagined the 
possibility of her taking such a position as that in which he 
now found her. Gilbert Lloyd was a man who believed 
thoroughly in the truth of that axiom which tells us that 
"there is atime for everything;" it would bequite timeenough 
for him to analyze the new light which had been let into his 
life, to weigh and balance the pros and cons connected with 
the appearance of Gertrude on a scene which he was accus- 
tomed to tread, mixed up with people with whom he was to 
a certain extent familiar ; it would be time enough for him 
to enter into those business details on the next morninar. 



JVi'EGRATIO AMOEIS. 183 

when his brain would be fresh and clear, and he would be 
recruited by his night's rest, and able more clearly to see his 
way, and arrive at a more accurate decision as to the ad- 
visability of steps to be taken. Meanwhile, he would listen 
with the rest ; and he did listen, with great pleasure, joining 
heartily in the applause, and delighting Lady Carabas by the 
warmth of his outspoken admiration of her favourite. And 
he escorted her ladyship to her carriage ; and went to the 
club, and played half-a-dozen rubbers with admirable cool- 
ness and self-possession. It was one of Gilbert Lloyd's 
strongest points that he could put aside anything unpleasant 
that might be pressing upon him, no matter how urgently, 
and defer it for future consideration. In the midst of 
trouble of all kinds — pecuniary complications, turf anxieties, 
on the issue of which his position in life depended — he 
would, after looking at them vigorously with all his power, 
turn into bed and sleep as calmly as though his mind were 
entirely free, rising the next morning with renewed health 
and courage to tackle the difficulties again. Just at this 
period of Miss Lambert's debut, Lloyd happened to be par- 
ticularly busy ; the Derby — on which he and his party were 
even more than usually interested — was close at hand, and 
all Gilbert's time was absorbed in " squaring " Lord Tice- 
hurst's book and his own. But he knew that he need be 
under no alarm from the new element in his life which had 
just cropped out : though he had seen Gertrude, she had not 
seen him ; there was no reason as yet why they should be 
thrown together ; and even if they were, he was too fully 
aware of her coldness and her pride to imagine she would 
for an instant attempt to thrust herself upon him, or even 
acknowledge him. So Gilbert Lloyd made no difference in 
his life, beyond noting the name under which his wife was 
charming the public, and paying attention whenever that 
name was pronounced in his presence. He heard all that — 
as we know — people said about her ; but as that all was 
praise of her public performance, and astonishment at the 
quietude of her private life, it caused him very little emotion, 
and that little of no pleasurable kind. 

It was the intervening week between Epsom and Ascot, 
and the season was at its height. The Ticehurst party, 
thanks to the astute generalship of Gilbert Lloyd, had 
pulled through the Derby very well. Lord Ticehurst's 



184 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

horse had not won — no one had ever imagined that possible 
— but it had been brought up to such a position in the 
betting as to secure the money for the stable, and save its 
owner's credit with the public. Matters for the future 
looked promising. To be sure, Lord Ticehurst had not 
taken so much interest of late in his turf speculations ; but 
that did not particularly affect Mr. Lloyd. So long as his 
patron kept up his stud, and left the entire management of 
everything to him, that gentleman was content. It was 
not unnatural that a man of Lord Ticehurst's youth and 
health and position should wish to enjoy himself in society ; 
and Gilbert rather encouraged his pupil's new notions on 
this point. It was not that Orson was endowed with 
reason, but rather that Orson had found out some jeux 
innocens for himself, of which he did not require his keeper's 
constant supervision. 

One morning in the above-named week, Gilbert Lloyd 
was sitting in his own room in Lord Ticehurst's bachelor- 
house in Hill Street. It was a pleasant room on the first 
floor, and was furnished in a manner half substantial and 
half pretty. The large oak writing-table in the centre, the 
two or three japanned deed-boxes on the floor, the handful 
of auctioneers' bills pinned to the wall, announcing property 
to be disposed of at forthcoming sales — all these looked like 
business ; but they were diametrically contradicted by the 
cigar-boxes, the pipe-rack, the Reynolds proofs, and the 
Pompeian photographs on the walls ; the ivory statuettes 
and the china monsters on the chimney-piece ; the deer- 
skins and the tiger-skins, the heavy bronzes, the velvet 
portieres, and the luxurious chairs and ottomans ; all of 
which indicated the possession of good taste and the means 
of gratifying it. Gilbert Lloyd had chosen these rooms 
— his bedchamber adjoined his sitting-room — when the 
menage was first transplanted to Hill Street from Limmer's 
— where, during the reign of Plater Dobbs, Lord Ticehurst 
had resided — and had kept them ever since. He had chosen 
them because they were pleasant and airy, and so far out of 
the way, that the ribald friends of the real proprietor — who 
were dropping into their companion's rooms on the ground 
floor at all hours of the day and night — never thought of 
ascending to them. Trainers and jockeys made their way 
up the stairs with much muttered cursing, hating the ascent, 



INTEGRATIO AMOEIS. 185 

■which was troublesome to their short legs, and hating the 
business which brought them there ; for Mr. Lloyd had a 
sharp tongue, and knew how to use it ; and if his orders 
were not carried out to the letter, so much the worse for 
those who had to obey them. And latterly, a different 
class of visitors found their way to Gilbert's room, demure 
attorneys and portly land-agents ; for Mr. Lloyd was now 
recognized as Lord Ticehurst's factotum ; and all matters 
connected with the estates, whether as regards sale, pur- 
chase, or mortgage, passed through his hands. 

It was twelve o'clock in the day, and Gilbert was seated 
at the oak writing-table. A banker's pass-book lay open at 
his right hand, and he was busied with calculations on a 
paper before him, when there was a knock at the door, and 
upon the cry "come in," Lord Ticehurst entered the room. 
Gilbert looked up from his writing, and on seeing who was 
his visitor, gave a short laugh. 

"Won't you send up a servant with your name, next 
time 1" said he ; "the idea of a man knocking at a door in 
his own house — at least when that isn't the door of his 
wife's room ! Then, I've heard it's advisable to knock or 
cough outside, or something of that sort, just to keep all 
straight you know !" 

" Funny dog !" said Lord Ticehurst, indolently dropping 
into an easy chair and puffing at his cigar. "How are 
you T 

" Well, but worried," answered Gilbert. 

"That goes without saying," said his lordship; "you 
always are worried, or you would never be well !" 

" Look here, Etchingham," exclaimed Gilbert Lloyd, with 
a mock air of intense interest, " you mustn't do this, 'pon 
my soul you mustn't, or you'll hurt yourself. I've noticed 
lately a distinct tendency on your part to be epigrammatic ; 
you weren't intended for it, and it won't agree with you. 
Take a friend's advice, and cut it." 

" Considerate old boy ! Tell me the news." 

" Tell you the news 1 — I like that. Tell the news to a 
man whose life is passed in what the newspaper fellows call 
the ' vortex of fashion ;' who is so much engaged that his 
humble servant here can't get five minutes with him on 
business, when it's most particularly wanted. Tell you the 
news, indeed !" 



186 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" No. But I say, you know what I mean, Gilbert. How 
are we getting on 1 Ascot, you know, and all that V 

" 0, business ! "Well, Bosjesman will win the Trial 
Stakes, and Plume will be beaten like a sack for the Cup ; 
both of which facts are good for us. We shall get Dum- 
funk's Derby money, or most of it ; he's come to terms — 
nice terms — with that discount company at Shrewsbury ; 
and little Jim Potter's shoulder's better, and he'll be able 
to ride." 

" And what about the house V 

" What house 1 Parliament ? Does your lordship intend 
to put me in for Etchingham ? I'm as fit as a fiddle for 
that work, and could roll them speeches off the reel " 

" Don't be an ass, Gilbert ! I mean the house for the 
week — at Ascot 1" 

" O, I see ! Yes, that's all settled. I couldn't get any- 
thing nearer than Windsor ; but I've got a very pretty little 
box there. Charley Chesterton rents it for the year — he's 
there with the Blues, you know; but Mrs. Chesterton's 
going away, and Charley will go into barracks for the week, 
and we can have the house. It's a stifiish figure, but they 
can get any amount that week, you know." 

" yes, of course, that don't matter. And it's a nice 
house, you say ?" 

" Very pretty little place indeed — do very well for us." 

" Yes. And Mrs. Chesterton's been living there 1 She's 
a nice woman, ain't she ?" 

" Yes, she's nice enough, as women go. But what has 
she to do with it ?" 

" Well — I mean to say, it's a sort of crib that — don't you 
know — one could ask a lady to stop in 1" 

" O — h !" exclaimed Gilbert Lloyd, with a very long face 
— " that's it, is it ?" 

"No, no, 'pon my soul, you don't understand what I 
mean," said Lord Ticehurst hurriedly. " Fact of the matter 
is, Lady Carabas wants to come down for the Cup-day ; and 
she'll bring a friend, of course ; and I told her about my 
having a house somewhere in the neighbourhood for the 
week, and thought she and the other lady, and their maids 
and people, could — don't you see 1 — stay. What do you 
think V 

"My dear EtchiDgham, whatever you wish, of course 



& 



IXTEG1IATI0 AMORIS. 187 

shall be earned out. It is not for me to teach etiquette to 
any lady, especially to Lady Carabas, who despises conven- 
tionality, and who, besides, is quite old enough to take care 
of herself. I should have thought that for a lady to come 
to a bachelor's house — however, of course she'll have her 
maid and her footman, and some one to act as her dme 
damnee — her sheep-dog." "Who is the sheep-dog, by the 
way?" 

" I don't know about sheep-dog," said Lord Ticehurst, 
flushing very red ; " but Lady Carabas said the lady she 
proposed to do me the honour to bring to my house was — 
was Miss Grace Lambert." 

Gilbert Lloyd looked up without the smallest trace of 
perturbation, and said, " Miss Grace Lambert ? O, the — 
the celebrated singer ! O, indeed !" 

" Yes," said Lord Ticehurst ; " there's a chance of her 
getting a holiday on Thursday night — town will be very 
empty, you know, and I think I shall be able to square it 
with Munns — and then she might come down to the races, 
and she and Lady Carabas could come over here afterwards. 
She's a most charming person, Gilbert." 

" Is she 1 " said Gilbert Lloyd very slowly. " I have not 
— what you seem to have — the pleasure of her acquaintance. 
Have you known her long 1 " 

" 0, ever so long ; ever since she first came out at a 
concert at Carabas House one night. Don't you recollect 
my pointing out to you a very stunning girl in a brougham, 
just as we were turning into Tatt's one day ? " 

" My dear fellow, you've pointed me out so many stunning 
girls when we've been turning into Tatt's, or elsewhere, 
that I really cannot distinguish that bright particular star. 
But I've seen Miss Lambert at the Opera." 

" And she's a stunner, ain't she ? " 

" She seemed to be perfectly good-looking and lady-like 
on the stage. But these people are so different in private 
life." 

" My dear Gilbert, I've seen her in private life, as you 
call it, a dozen times, and she's awfully nice." 

" O, and she's awfully nice, eh ? " 

" What a queer fish you are ! Of course she's awfully 
nice ; and this place of Charley Chesterton's will do for 
these ladies to come to ? " 



188 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

"Yes, I should think so. Mrs. Chesterton is a woman 
accustomed to have the right thing about her ; and it's good 
enough for her, so I presume it will 'do' for Miss Lambert 
and Lady Carabas." 

" I hate you when you've got this sneering fit on you, 
Gilbert," said his lordship sulkily ; and Gilbert Lloyd saw 
that he had gone far enough. His patron was wonderfully 
good-tempered, but, like all good-tempered men, when once 
put out, he " cut up rough " for a very long time. 

" Don't be angry, Etchingham ; " and Lloyd rose and 
crossed the room, and put his hand on the young man's 
shoulder. " I was only chaffing ; and I was a little annoyed, 
perhaps, because you seemed doubtful whether this house 
that I have got, and only got after a great deal of trouble, 
would suit you. You might have depended on me. Well, 
and so you have made this young lady's acquaintance, and 
you find her charming 1 " 

" Quite charmin'," said Lord Ticehurst, his good-humour 
being restored. " I've been with Lady Carabas several times 
to see her at a pretty little place she's got out Bayswater 
way, where she lives with an old tabby — by the way, I'll 
bet odds that old tabby don't let her come here without 
her." 

"Well, there's room for the old tabby," said Gilbert. 
" But, see, Etchingham ; do I really understand that you — 
that you care for this girl 1 " 

" t) n it, Gilbert, you press a fellow home ! Well, 

then, I'm not given to this sort of thing, as you know very 
well ; but this time it's an awful case of spoons." 

"Ah ! " said Gilbert, smiling quietly, "your expression is 
slangy, but vigorous. And what are your views with regard 
to her 1 " 

" Jove ! " said Lord Ticehurst, " only one way there, my 
dear fellow! Wouldn't stand any nonsense; any of 'em, 
I mean, — Lady Carabas and all that lot. Besides, she's a 
lady, you know — educated, and all that sort of thing ; and 
as to looks and breedin', she could hold her own with any of 
'em— eh 1 " 

" Of course she could. Besides, chaff apart, when the 
Earl of Ticehurst chooses to marry, his countess — however, 
there's time enough to talk about that. Now run along, 



INTEGEATIO AMOIIIS. 189 

for I must write off at once about this Windsor house ; and 
I've a heap of things to do to-day." 

Lord Ticehurst left his Mentor, after shaking hands 
warmly with him, and took his departure in a very happy 
frame of mind. It was a great comfort to him to have 
made Lloyd aware of the state of his feelings towards Miss 
Lambert, immature as those feelings were, for Mentor had 
such a hold over the young man that he never felt com- 
fortable while he was keeping anything back from him. 
But when he was gone, Gilbert Lloyd did not begin to 
write the letter to Windsor, or settle to any of the " heap 
of work " which he had mentioned as in store for him. He 
got up and opened a drawer full of cigars, selected one 
carefully, lit it, and threw himself into a low easy chair, 
with his legs crossed, and his hands clasped behind his head. 
At first he puffed angrily at his cigar, but after a little time 
he gradually began to smoke more quietly, and then he un- 
clasped his hands and rested his elbows on his knees, and 
his chin on his hands. 

" That's it ! " he said aloud, " that's the line of country ! 
Fancy my never having given a thought to where this 
fellow was going so often, never wondering at the sudden 
fancy he had taken to his aunt's society ; and then dis- 
covering from his own lips that he has been paying visits to 
my wife ! More than that — that he is confoundedly in 
love with her, and wants to marry her ! Wants to marry 
my wife ! There's something deuced funny in that. I 
wonder whether any other fellow ever had a man come to 
him and tell him he wanted to marry his wife. I should 
think not ! Not that I should care in the least if any one 
married Gertrude — any one, that is to say, except this youth 
downstairs. I have not done with him yet, and a wife 
would interfere horribly with me and my plans. Yes, 
that's the right notion. There is no reason why Etchingham 
should not be encouraged in this new fancy. It will keep 
him from dangling after any other woman, and it can come 
to nothing. I know her ladyship of Carabas rather too 
well to credit her with any desire for Miss Lambert the 
opera-singer as a relative ; as a plaything, an amusement, 
she's well enough : but Lady Carabas cries ' Halte Id, ! ' and 
a hint from me to her would make her speak the word. 



190 



THE EOCK AHEAD. 



Besides, I am not dead yet, and I might have something to 
say about my wife's second marriage — that is, of course, 
supposing that second marriage did not suit my views. But 
there will be no question of that for some time. Now that 
I know the state of affairs, I can keep myself au courant 
to all that goes on through Lady Carabas : I shall make her 
ladyship induce her charming nephew to moderate his 
transports so far as any question of proposing is concerned ; 
but he may be ' awful spoons,' as he charmingly phrases it, 
as long as he pleases. As for this Windsor notion, that 
must be knocked on the head at once. I don't intend to 
give up the Cup-day at Ascot myself, and I certainly could 
not well be there, if Gertrude were to be of the party. I'll 
settle that with Lady Carabas." 

Here behold Gilbert Lloyd's philosophy and views of life. 
Affection for the woman whom he had wedded, and from 
whom he had separated, he had not one scrap ; nor even 
care as to what she did, what course of life she pursued, 
whence she obtained the means of livelihood. Any interest 
in that he had abnegated when he accepted the terms which 
she dictated for their separation, — terms which meant ob- 
livion of the past and insouciance for the future, terms 
which he had indorsed when they were proposed, and which 
he was ready to hold to still. But when his knowledge of 
his wife's previous life — of the thrall from which she had 
actually, but not legally, escaped — gave him the mastery 
over her actions, or the actions of those in relation with 
her, he was prepared to twist the screw to its tightest, if 
by so twisting it he could aid in the development of his own 
plan?. 

Had Gilbert Lloyd no remnant of love for Gertrude, no 
lingering reminiscence of the time when, a trusting school- 
girl, she placed her future in his hands, gave up her whole 
life to him, and fled away from the only semblance of 
home which she had known at his suggestion 1 Had he 
no thought of the time immediately succeeding that, when 
for those few happy weeks, ere the pleasant dream was dis- 
pelled, she lay nestling in his bosom, building O such castles 
in the air, such impossible pictures, prompted by girlish 
romantic fancies of the future ? Had Gilbert Lloyd any 
such reminiscences as these ? Truth to tell, not in the 
smallest degree. He had passed the wet sponge over the 



INTEGRATIO AMORIS. 191 

slate containing any records of his early life, and all trace 
of Gertrude had been effectually erased. When he heard 
of her now, when it became necessary for him to give a 
certain number of moments to thinking of her in connection 
with business matters, he treated the affair simply from a 
business point of view. To him she was as dead " as nail 
in door," as immaterial as the first woman he might brush 
against in the street ; she might be turned to serve certain 
ends which he had in view ; but he regarded her simply 
as one of the puppets in the little life-drama of which he 
acted as showman. 

The pleasant gathering which Lord Ticehurst had looked 
forward to on the Cup-day at Ascot did not come off. 
Gilbert Lloyd had five minutes' interview with Lady 
Carabas on the subject ; and two days afterwards Mr. 
Boulderson Munns announced the impossibility of his sparing 
Miss Grace Lambert's services for that evening. Not that 
Miss Lambert would have accepted Lord Ticehurst's hospi- 
tality if her services could have been spared, but it was best 
to put the refusal on a strictly professional footing. Mr. 
Lloyd did not in the least care about absenting himself from 
that pleasant gathering on the Heath, and it was of course 
impossible for him to be brought face to face with Lord 
Ticehurst's intended guest. So the recipients of his lord- 
ship's hospitality in the cottage at Windsor were Lady 
Carabas and Miss Macivor, a sprightly elderly spinster, who 
was as well known in society as the clock at St. James's 
Palace, and who was always ready to play what she imagined 
to be propriety in any fast party. The ladies enjoyed 
themselves immensely, they said ; but their host's gratifica- 
tion was not so keen. He was bored and ruffled, and he 
did not care to disguise it. 

And now a change came over Gilbert Lloyd, which was 
to him unaccountable, and against which he struggled with 
all the power of his strong will, but struggled in vain. This 
change came about, as frequently happens with such matters 
by which our whole future is influenced, in an unforeseen 
manner, and by the merest accident. The Ascot settling- 
day had not passed off very comfortably. Several heavy 
book-makers were absent ; among them one who had lost a 
large sum of money to the Ticehurst party. This man was 
known to have won hugely on the Derby a fortnight before, 



192 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

and to have had a capital account at his banker's a few days 
previously. It seemed therefore clear to Gilbert Lloyd, 
with whom the management of the matter rested, that the 
money was still in the possession of the absconding book- 
maker, who would, in all probability, take an opportunity of 
leaving the country with the sum thus accumulated. 
Gilbert Lloyd put himself in communication with the police 
authorities, furnished a correct description of the defaulter, 
and caused a strict watch to be kept at the various principal 
ports. One morning he received a telegram from Liverpool, 
announcing that the offender had been seen there. It had 
been ascertained that he was about to leave by the Cunard 
boat for Boston the next morning ; but that, as he had 
committed no criminal offence, it was impossible for the 
police to detain him. This news made Gilbert Lloyd 
furious ; that he should have his prey under his hand, and 
yet be unable to close that hand upon him, was maddening. 
He thought some good might be effected by his hurrying to 
Liverpool by the afternoon express, finding the defaulter, 
and frightening him out of at least a portion of the money due. 
The more he turned this plan in his mind, the more feasible 
it seemed to him, and the more he was determined to carry 
it into effect. There were, however, certain affairs to be 
transacted that day upon which it was most necessary he 
should, before starting, communicate personally with Lord 
Ticehurst ; and Gilbert, from recent experience, knew that 
he should have considerable difficulty in tracing that young 
nobleman's whereabouts. He made inquiries at all the 
various haunts, but without any success ; at length, at the 
club some one said that Ticehurst had offered to drive him 
down to the Crystal Palace, for which place he had started a 
couple of hours ago. The Crystal Palace ! What on earth 
could take him there? Gilbert Lloyd, who saw fewer 
" sights " than almost any man in London, had been there 
once, but brought away a dazed recollection of fountains and 
Egyptian idols, and statues and tropical trees, none of 
which he thought would have any interest for his pupil. 
But his wonderment was at an end when, taking up the 
newspaper and looking for the advertisement, he saw 
announced that a grand concert, by the principal singers of 
the Scandinavian Opera, would take place at the Crystal 



INTEGRATIO AMORIS. 193 

Palace that afternoon, and that the chief attraction of the 
concert was to be Miss Grace Lambert. 

A swift hansom bore him to Victoria, and a tedious train 
landed him at the Crystal Palace, just in time to hear the 
opening notes of Herr Boreas's solo on the ophicleide. A 
charming performance that of Herr Boreas, but one to 
which Mr. Lloyd gave no attention. He hurried through 
the crowd, looking eagerly right and left ; and at last his 
eyes fell upon a group, where they remained. 

Lord Ticehurst, Mr. Munns, and two or three others were 
component parts of this little knot ; but Gilbert Lloyd saw 
but one person — Gertrude. How marvellously she had 
improved during the time that had elapsed since they 
parted ! She had been pretty as a girl ; she was lovely as 
a woman. How lovely she looked in her simple morning 
dress and coquettish little bonnet ! With what a perfect 
air of easy grace she listened to the men bending before her, 
and how quietly she received the homage which they were 
evidently paying ! An angry flush rose on Gilbert's pale 
cheeks, and his heart beat quickly as he witnessed this 
manifest adoration. What right had any one but he tc- 

approach her, to It stung him like a cut from a whip, 

it flared like a train of gunpowder. He knew what it was 
in an instant : mad, raging, ungovernable jealousy — 
nothing else. He had thrown off all love for her — all 
thought of her ; and now, the first time they met, the 
passion which struck him when he first saw her, years 
before, looking out of the window of the Vale House, sprung 
up with renewed fury within him, and he raged and chafed 
as he recognized the obstacles which kept him from her, but 
which were no barriers to other men. She seemed utterly 
indifferent to them, though, he was glad to see — no ! her 
face lights up, she smiles and bends forward ; and when she 
looks up again there is a blush upon her cheek. Who has 
been speaking to her 1 — the tall handsome man with the 
brown beard — Miles Challoner ! And Gilbert Lloyd swore 
a deep oath of revenge — revenge of which his wife and his 
brother should each bear their share. 



194 THE ROCK AHEAD. 



CHAPTER III. 

AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE. 

TO Herr Boreas was allotted the pleasing chity of opening 
the concert. The jolly German gentleman, neatly and 
seasonably dressed in black, with a large diamond-brooch in 
his plaited shirt-front, and with stuffy-looking black-cloth 
boots with shiny tips, opened his big chest, and puffed away 
at his ophicleide, evoking now the loudest and now the 
softest notes ; while the crowds kept pouring in to the 
railed-off space, and took their seats, laughing and chatter- 
ing, and not paying the smallest attention to the perform- 
ance. It was a great day at the Palace, a day on which 
great people thought it proper to be seen there. The little 
public-houses in the neighbourhood were filled with re- 
splendent creatures in gorgeous liveries, whose employers 
were making their way through nave and transept, looking 
at nothing save the other people there, and looking at them 
as though they were singular specimens of humanity 
specially put out for show. In the matter of staring, it 
must be confessed that the other people returned the com- 
pliment. The regular attendants at the Crystal Palace are, 
for the most part, resident in the neighbourhood, and the 
neighbouring residents are, for the most part, of or 
belonging to the City. The brokers of stocks, shares, and 
sugar ; the owners of Manchester warehouses, the riggers of 
markets, and the projectors of companies ; the directors of 
banks, and the " floaters " of " concerns," have, many of 
them, charming villas, magnificent mansions, or delicious 
snuggeries at Blackheath, Eltham, or Sydenham ; and the 
Palace is the great place of resort for their wives and 
daughters, and for themselves when the cares of business are 
laid aside. How many successful matches, in which money 
has been allied to money, have commenced in flirtations by 
the side of the plashing fountains, or in the shade of the 
stunted orange-trees ! What execution has not been done 
by flashing eyes in the central promenade ! There, by the 



AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE. 195 

Dying Gladiator, Lord Claude Votate proposed for Miss 
^Ieggifer, and secured the fortune which rescued the 
Cfilfington estates from his lordship's creditors ; there, 
behind the Dancing Faun, Charles Partington, of Parting- 
ton Nephews, kissed Minnie Black, daughter of Black 
Brothers — was seen to do it by Mrs. Black, consequently 
could not escape, and thus cemented an alliance between 
those hitherto rival houses, considered in Wood-street as the 
Horatii and Curiatii of the Berlin-wool trade. Pleasant 
place of decorous festivity and innocent diversion, whence 
instruction has been completely routed by amusement, and 
where the Assyrian gods and the Renaissance friezes are 
deserted for the dancing dogs and the Temple of Momus as 
constructed by Mr. Nelson Lee ! 

By the time that Herr Boreas had finished his solo — 
which was not until he had blown all the breath out of his 
body, and was apparently on the verge of apoplexy — the 
audience had taken possession of all the seats ; and as the 
German gentleman bowed himself out of the orchestra, 
amidst a great deal of applause from people who, indeed, 
could not help having heard, but had not paid the least 
attention to him, there was a general reference to the pro- 
grammes to see what was coming next, then a rustling, a 
whispering, and that curious settling stir which electrically 
runs through an audience just before the advent of a 
favourite artist. Gilbert Lloyd, not insensible to this, 
involuntarily looked round from behind the pillar by 
which he was standing to the spot where he had seen 
Gertrude, but she was no longer there. The next instant 
thunders of applause rang through the building as she 
advanced upon the platform. She bowed gracefully but 
coldly; then the conductor waved his baton, and dead 
silence fell upon the audience, leaning forward with out- 
stretched necks to catch the first notes of her voice. Soft 
and sweet, clear and trilling, comes the bird-like song, 
warbled without the smallest apparent effort, while 
thrilling the listeners to the heart — thrilling Gilbert 
Lloyd, who holds his breath, and looks on in rapture. 
He had heard her before, but in Italian opera ; now she is 
singing an English ballad, of no great musical pretension 
indeed, but pretty and sympathetic. At the end of the first 
verse the applause burst out in peals on peals ; and so 

o2 



196 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

carried away was Gilbert Lloyd, that he found himself 
joining in the general feeling — he who scarcely knew one 
note of music from another, and who had come to the place 
on a matter of important business. That must stand over 
now, though — he felt that. The absconding turfite might 
go to America, or to the deuce, for the matter of that ; 
Gilbert Lloyd felt it an impossibility to leave the place 
where he then was, and tried to cheat himself by pretending 
that it was expedient for his own interest that he should keep 
a close watch upon Lord Ticehurst just at that time. That 
young nobleman certainly took no pains to conceal his warm 
admiration for Miss Lambert, and his intense delight at her 
performance. He applauded more loudly than any one 
else, and assumed an attitude of rapt attention, which 
would have been highly interesting if it had not also 
been slightly comic. When the song ceased, the cries for a 
repetition were loud and universal. Gertrude, who had 
retired, again advanced to the front of the orchestra. By 
an involuntary impulse, Gilbert Lloyd stepped from behind 
the pillar which had hitherto shielded him, and their eyes 
met — met for the first time since he left her at the Brighton 
hotel, on the clay of Harvey Gore's death. 

A deep flush overspread Gilbert Lloyd's usually pallid 
cheeks, but Gertrude's expression did not change in the 
slightest degree. Not a trace of the faintest emotion, even 
of curiosity, could be seen in her face. The conductor of 
the orchestra, just before he left her in front of the audience, 
addressed some remark to her ; and as she replied, Gilbert 
noticed that her lips were curling with a slight sneer — an 
expression which he fancied he understood, when the band 
commenced to play an air which even he, all unmusical as 
he was, recognised as " Home, sweet home." But she never 
looked at him again during the song, which she sung even 
more sweetly than the first, and with a deep pathos that 
roused the audience to enthusiasm. Gilbert Lloyd kept his 
eyes fixed on her, never moving them for an instant ; and 
as he marked the calm air with which she received the 
public applause, and the graceful ease of all her movements 
— as he saw how her face, always clear cut and classicallv 
moulded, had ripened in womanly beauty and intellectual 
expression — as he noticed the rounded elegance of her figure, 
the tasteful simplicity of her dress — and he noticed all 



AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE. 197 

these details down to the fit of her gloves and the colour of 
her bonnet-strings — he raged against himself for having 
been fool enough to i-elinquish the hold he once had on her. 
Could that hold be re-established 1 If he were again to 
have an opportunity — But while these thoughts were 
passing through his mind, Gertrude had finished her song 
and (juitted the orchestra, and her glance had not fallen on 
him again. 

Meantime Gilbert Lloyd saw he had been noticed by the 
group with whom Miss Lambert had been sitting previous 
to her performance, and as Miles Challoner was no longer 
with them he thought it better to join the party. 
His appearance amongst them was evidently a surprise to 
Lord Ticehurst, who expressed the greatest astonishment at 
his Mentor's finding any amusement in so slow a proceeding 
as a concert, and who grew very red and looked very con- 
scious when Gilbert asked him what particular charm such 
an entertainment could j)ossess for him. Lord Sandilands 
was, as usual in his behaviour to Mr. Lloyd, scrupulously 
polite, but not particularly cordial. He had nothing in 
common with Gilbert, detested the turf and all its associa- 
tions, and looked on Lord Ticehurst's turf Mentor as very 
little better than Lord Ticehurst's stud-groom. Mr. 
Boulderson Munns still remained with them, and intended 
so to remain. It was part of Mr. Munns' business that he 
should be seen in close and confidential communication 
" with two nobs," as he elegantly phrased it, and he took 
advantage of the opportunity. Nothing pleased him so 
much as to notice when members of the promenading crowd 
would elbow each other, look towards him, and whisper 
together, or when he saw heads bent forward and opera- 
glasses pointed in his direction. It was his concert he 
thought : when Herr Boreas blew his ophicleide, or Miss 
Lambert sang her song, he felt inclined to place his thumbs 
in the arm-holes of his big white waistcoat, and go forward 
and acknowledge the applause. He had done so in former 
years in the transformation-scenes of pantomimes, when the 
people called for Scumble the scene-painter, and why not 
now 1 Boreas and the Lambert were quite as much his 
people as Scumble ! Mr. Munns restrained himself, how- 
ever, from motives of policy. It was pretty plain to him, 
as he afterwards explained to Mr. Duff, that this young 



o 



198 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

swell, this Ticehurst, was dead spoons on the Lambert ; 
and as he had no end of money, and was good for a box 
every night, and perhaps something more if the screw were 
properly put on, it would be best to make it all sugar for 'em. 
With this laudable intent he commenced talking loudly to 
Lord Ticehurst of Miss Lambert's attractions, and did not 
suffer himself to be interrupted for more than a minute by 
Lloyd's arrival. 

" As I was telling you, my lord," he recommenced, 
" she's a wonder, this — this young lady — a wonder, and 
nothing but it ! Not merely for the hit she's made, though 
it's a great go, and I don't mean to deny it ; but I don't 
go by the public, I know too much of them. Why, Lord 
Sandilands here, he remembers when — Well, it's no good 
going into that ; lots of them we've seen in our time, and 
then, after a season or two, all dickey ! regular frost ! But 
there's something very different from that with Miss 
Lambert — so quiet, and so quite the lady; none of your 
flaring up, and ballyragging the people about. Why Miss 
Murch, our wardrobe-woman, said to me only last night, 
that she only wished the other prima donnas were like her 
— won't wear this, and won't wear that — How d'ye do, Mr. 
Lloyd 1 I was talking to his lordship of Miss Lambert, 
who's just been singing, and saying what a stunner she was. 
Now, if you've got a filly to name — one that's likely to be 
something, and do something, you know — you should call 
her Grace Lambert " 

" No, I think not ; not quite that, Mr. Munns ! " inter- 
posed Lord Ticehurst ; " that's scarcely the kind of compli- 
ment I should care to pay to Miss Lambert." 

" You may depend upon it that it's one which, if Miss 
Lambert had the option, she would scarcely care to accept, 
my lord," said Lord Stanilands tartly ; " however, there 
she is to answer for herself," and he pointed through the 
glass to the garden, where Gertrude was seen walking with 
Mrs. Bloxam. There was an evident intention on the part 
of all composing the group to join them, and seeing this 
Gilbert Lloyd would have withdrawn ; but Lord Ticehurst 
took him by the arm, and saying, " I've long wanted to 
introduce you to Miss Lambert, old fellow, and now you 
can't possibly escape," led the way. 

If he were ever again to have an opportunity ! Had 
« 



AT THE CRYSTAL PALAC10. 199 

that opportunity then come ? Was his never-failing luck 
holding by him still, and giving him this chance of retrieving 
the blunder he had made in the Brighton hotel 1 He 
thought so. His breath came short and thick as he nerved 
himself for the meeting. He saw her as she and Mrs. 
Bloxam strolled before them up the garden-walk, noticed 
the swimming ease of her gait, the fall of her black lace 
cloak, as it hung from her shoulders, the graceful pose of her 
head. She turned, he heard the sound of her approaching 
feet, he felt her presence close opposite to him, he heard 
Lord Ticehurst's voice repeating the set formula of intro- 
duction, but he saw nothing until he looked up to catch the 
faintest inclination of Gertrude's head, and to see her face 
colder, more set, more rigid than ever. Neither spoke ; and 
the silence was becoming awkward, when Lord Ticehurst 
said, '■' I imagine you must have heard me speak of my 
friend Lloyd, Miss Lambert 1 Good enough to manage my 
racing matters for me, and to manage them deuced well — 
with the greatest talent and skill, and all that kind of 
thing. Not in your line, I know, Miss Lambert ; but still 

— still " and his lordship's eloquence failed him, and he 

broke dowD. 

Again neither of them spoke, but Gilbert Lloyd looked 
up from under his brow and saw the stony glance which 
Gertrude cast upon him for an instant, then turned to Mrs. 
Bloxam, and suggested that they should return to the 
concert-room, where she would speedily be wanted. Lord 
Sandilands was at her right hand, Lord Ticehurst on the 
other side of Mrs. Bloxam. Mr.Munns preceded them, and 
caused a great sensation, on which he had reckoned, when he 
flung open the door and ostentatiously ushered them into the 
building ; but Gilbert Lloyd walked slowly behind, his hands 
plunged into his pockets, and his face — there was no one to 
heed him, no reason for him to don an unnatural expression 
— savage, set, and careworn. 

So it had come at last, he thought. They had met after 
so long an estrangement ; and that was to be the end of the 
meeting. No recognition — he had not expected that — no 
public recognition, no hint that they had ever been anything 
to each other. He recollected the words that he had ad- 
dressed to her on their parting ; they came surging up and 
ringing in his ears : " It is not very likely that we shall 



200 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

ever run across each other's path in the future, but if we 
do, we meet as entire strangers ; and the fact of our having 
been anything to one another must never be brought for- 
ward to prejudice any scheme in which either of us may be 
engaged." Memory brought before hiui the dingy cold 
room of the second-rate hotel, with the dying sunlight 
streaking its discoloured walls, in which these words had 
been spoken ; brought before him the slight figure and the 
deadly pallid face of the girl as she listened to them, and 
acquiesced in their verdict. In that verdict she acquiesced 
still, was acting up to its spirit — to its very letter. It was 
his proposition to leave her alone and unfettered " in any 
scheme in which she might be engaged." The fooling, the 
•enslavement of this idiot Ticehurst, who was a mere tool 
in his hands, was the game which she was now playing, at 
which he was to look on helplessly, having himself spoken 
the words which rendered her independent of his control. 

And she, how did she take it ? Calmly enough ; but not 
so calmly as Gilbert Lloyd supposed. She had never gone 
in for much feeling, and whatever she had was now com- 
pletely at her command, far more completely even than 
when she last had parted from her husband. Moreover, 
while Gilbert had utterly given himself up to the business 
of his turf profession, resolutely refusing to think of his 
wife, or to acknowledge to himself that there was ever a 
possibility of their again being brought into contact, the 
chance of such a meeting had often occurred to Gertrude, 
and the manner in which she would demean herself, should 
the occasion arise, had been thought over by her and settled 
in her mind. And now that it had arisen, so far as her 
outward demeanour was concerned, she had behaved herself 
exactly as she had always proposed. And her facial control 
was such, that no one looking at her could have an inkling 
of what was passing in her mind, which was fortunate on 
this occasion, for she was considerably more disturbed than 
she had expected. The first sight of her husband was a 
complete shock to her, and it was only by the exercise of 
the greatest presence of mind that she prevented herself 
from betraying her perturbation. When the first shock 
was past — and she owed it to the strict discipline of profes- 
sional training that she was enabled to get over it so quickly 
— her thoughts reverted to the subject, and she was able to 



AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE. 201 

discuss it calmly with herself. What brought Gilbert 
Lloyd to that place ? She knew him well enough to feel 
sure that there must have been some strong inducement, 
and what could that be ? Gilbert was lie with Lord Tice- 
hurst ; and that that full-flavoured young nobleman was 
considerably in love with her, Gertrude had never attempted 
to disguise from herself; but what could that matter to the 
man from whom she had been so long estranged, and who 
had never shown the smallest interest in her proceedings 
during that long estrangement ? The possibility of a desire 
on Gilbert's part to negotiate for a renewal of intimacy 
crossed her mind for an instant, but was at once rejected ; and 
not even for an instant did she imagine the desire for such 
a proceeding was based on anything but motives of policy. 
And, after all, what did it matter to her ? To her Gilbert 
Lloyd was dead and buried, she had nothing to look for at 
his hands, nothing to fear from him — her lip curled as she 
recollected that ; she would dismiss him entirely from her 
thoughts, she would — what could have brought him to that 
concert of all places in the world ? It might be useful to 
know something of his mode of life. She would lead Lady 
Carabas to talk of him ; the marchioness would be only 
too happy to dilate on such a subject. 

By the time Miss Lambert was to sing again, she had 
quite made up her mind on this point, and the sight of 
Gilbert Lloyd, plante la, did not cause her the slightest 
emotion. He stood as one rapt, fascinated by her beauty, 
drinking in her voice, with one constant idea beating 
in his brain : — Was the past irrevocable 1 could not 
the mischief be undone ? The power he had had in 
the old days remained to him still : he had but to exer- 
cise it, and all would be right again. True that just 
then she had rebuffed him ; but that was her way, always 
had been ; she had always piqued herself upon her pride, 
and after that had had its fling he should be able to do with 
her as he liked. Miss Lambert was in full song as these 
thoughts passed through Gilbert Lloyd's mind, when sud- 
denly she changed colour, a transient flush overspread her 
face, dying away again almost instantaneously. At the 
same instant Gilbert Lloyd turned swiftly round in the 
direction in which he had noticed her glance fall, and saw 
Miles Challoner, who had recently entered and dropped into 



202 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

a chair just behind Lord Sandilands' seat. No doubt of it, 
no doubt of it ; her self-command was so shaken that her 
voice faltered for an instant, and he — look at his eyes 
fastened on her face with a look of perfect love and trust, 
and it was impossible to doubt the position. Lloyd's heart 
sunk within him at the sight, and a bitter oath was rising 
to his lips, and would have found utterance, when he felt 
his arm pressed, and looking round, saw Tommy Toshington, 
of the clubs, standing behind him. Mr. Toshington had 
on a new and curly wig, a light high muslin cravat, and 
looked bland and amiable. He winked affably at Lloyd, 
and laying his finger lightly against his nose, said, " You're 
wrong, my dear boy ; — it's all right ! " Mr. Gilbert Lloyd 
shortly bade his friend not to be an ass, but if he had 
anything to say, to out with it. Nothing abashed at the 
strength of Gilbert's language, Tommy said — 

" My dear fellow, I mean exactly what I say ; you're 
under a mistake, while all the time it's all right for you ! " 

" What's all right for me 1 — with whom ? — where 1 " 

" There ! " said Tommy Toshington, wagging his new wig 
and his curly-brimmed hat in the direction where Lord 
Ticehurst was sitting ; " his lordship is entete with a certain 
warbler, eh ? Fourth finger of the left hand — death do us 
part, and all that sort of thing, eh ? That wouldn't suit 
your book, I should think— have to give up your rooms ; 
she persuade him to cut the turf, go to church, and that 
kind of thing. Don't you be afraid, my boy ; I know the 
world better than you, and that'll never come off ! " 

" You think not ? " asked Gilbert. 

" I'm sure not," replied Tommy. " Look here ; he'd like- 
it fast enough. Etchingham would marry her to-morrow if 
he got the chance ; but she's full of pluck and spirit, and 
don't care a bit for him. How do I know ? Because she 
cares for somebody else. How do I know that 1 My dear 
fellow, don't I know everything ? What used the old Dook 
to say. ' Ask Toshington, he'll know ; he knows every- 
thing, Tommy does.' And he didn't make many mistakes, 
the old Dook." 

" Perhaps you know who is the ' somebody' else for whom 
the lady cares 1 " said Gilbert, an evil light dawning in his 
face, and his lips involuntarily tightening as he put the 
question. 



l'URSUIT. 203 

" Of course I do ! " said Tommy, with a crisp little laugh ; 
" keep my eyes open, see everything ; seen 'em together lots 
of times — Carabas House, Lady Lowndes', and lots of places. 
You know him, I should think ; tall man from Gloucester- 
shire — big beard — Chaldecott — some name like that ! " 

This time the oath broke from Lloyd's lips unchecked. 
He turned rapidly on his heel, and strode away. 

" Dev'lish ill-bred young man that," said old Toshington, 
looking after him ; "dammy, there's no manners left in the 
men of the present day ! " 



CHAPTER IV 

PURSUIT. 

THE clearance effected under the superintendence of the 
Office of Works, for the amalgamation under one roof 
of the various Courts of Law, has carried away a large 
portion of Clement's Inn, and has obliterated the pillared 
entrance to that dusky but genial home of the shady and 
impecunious. In the days of our story, however, Inn and 
entrance were still there ; the former tenanted by human 
sheep of various degrees of blackness — roistering govern- 
ment-office clerks, with the Insolvent Court — which at the 
outset of their career had been but a light cloud as small as 
a man's hand, but which year by year had assumed larger 
and more definite proportions— ever lowering over them ;. 
third-rate attorneys, who combined law with discount, 
" doing " little bills for ten and twenty pounds with the 
afore-named government clerks, and carefully putting in an 
appearance at Somerset House on pay-days to receive their 
money, or the refresher which was to induce the withholding 
of the document — it is always " a document" — until another 
quarter had elapsed ; agents for companies of all kinds of 
limited and unlimited liability ; newspaper- writers obliged 
to have cheap chambers in the neighbourhood of their 
offices ; foreigners representing continental firms, and want- 
ing a cheap and quasi-respectable address ; an actor or two, 
a score of needy men-about-town, and a few Jews. Round 
the pillars seethed and bubbled a scum of humanity of the 



204 THE EOCK AHEAD 

nastiest kind — vendors of the fried fish and the pickled 
whelk, boot-blackers of abnormally horrid appearance ; and 
emaciated children from the neighbouring Clare Market 
and the adjoining courts, thieves and impostors from their 
infancy, hung about the cab-rank, and added to the general 
filth and squalor. A pleasant Slough of Despond, that little 
spot, now standing bare and cleared, surrounded by the 
balmy Holywell, the virtuous Wych, with Drury Lane 
running from it at right-angles, and the dirtiest corner of 
the great legal cobweb of courts and alleys at its back. 

It was a hot morning in July when a cab drew up at the 
pillars, and Gilbert Lloyd jumped out, paid the driver, and 
made his way into the Inn. The exhalations from the 
barrows of the fried-fish vendors were potent, and the 
change to the faint, sickly perfume of the West-Indian 
pine-apple, tastefully arranged in slices on an open barrow 
which blocked the immediate thoroughfare, was scarcely 
refreshing. Perhaps in July the second-hand garments, 
•even the uniforms, which the Jewish gentlemen who deal 
in such trophies hang up at the entrances of their ware- 
houses, are a thought stronger in flavour than in the winter ; 
and a fifth-hand portmanteau, which has seen a great deal 
of service under various owners, is apt, under the influence 
of the sun, to suggest its presence. But Gilbert Lloyd paid 
no heed to anything of this kind ; he had roughed it too 
long to care for what came between the wind and his 
nobility ; not being a literary photographer on the look-out 
for " character," he paid no attention to any of the sur- 
roundings, but went straight on, making his way through 
the jostling crowd until he arrived at a door on the posts of 
which was painted " Gammidge's Private-Inquiry Office, 
ground-floor." A further reference to the right-hand door 
of the first-floor discovered a still more elaborate placard, 
announcing that " Nichs. Gammidge, many years in the 
detective police, undertook inquiries of a private and con- 
fidential nature ; agents all over the Continent ; strictest 
secrecy observed ; divorce cases particularly attended to ; 
ring right-hand bell ; and no connection with foreign im- 
postors trading on N. G.'s new invention." 

Gilbert Lloyd with some difficulty — for in the dingy pas- 
sage there was but little light even on that bright summer 
morning — read this description, and in obedience to its 



PURSUIT. 20.3 

suggestion pulled the right-hand bell. The sound of the 
bell, vibrating loudly, apparently had the effect of putting 
a sudden stop to a muttered conversation of a groaning 
character, which had been dimly audible ; the door was 
opened by a spring from the inside, and Gilbert entered. He 
found himself in a low-ceilinged, dirty room, with no other 
furniture than a couple of chairs and a very ricketty deal 
table. The windows were covered more than half-way up 
with blinds improvised out of old newspapers ; a clock with 
one hand was on the wall ; an almanac, much ink-scored 
and pin-marked, stood on the mantelshelf ; and a limp map 
of Great Britain, evidently torn out of an ancient Bradshaw, 
was pinned behind the door. At first, on entering, Gilbert 
Lloyd thought himself the sole occupant of the room ; but 
when his eyes had become accustomed to the partial dark- 
ness, he discovered some one rubbing himself against the 
wall at the opposite end of the room, and apparently 
trying to squeeze himself through into the next house. A 
little hard looking at and careful study made him out a 
very thin, small, white-faced young man, with hollow cheeks, 
a sharp face, and a keen restless eye. As Gilbert's glance fell 
on him, or rather, as he seemed to feel it fall on him, he 
shook himself with an odd restless motion, as though to^ 
endeavour to get rid of some spell of fascination, but evi- 
dently desired to keep as much as possible in the background. 
The groaning, smothered conversation meanwhile had 
recommenced in another quarter, and Gilbert, looking 
round, noticed a door evidently leading into an inner 
room. 

" Is this Mr. Gammidge's office ? " he asked abruptly of 
the white-faced young man. 

The white-faced young man gave a sudden start, as though 
a pin had been run into him, but never spoke. 

" Mr. Gammidge's office — is this Mr. Gammidge's office 1 :! 
repeated Gilbert. 

" T — I believe so," said the white-faced young man, taken 
aback by the sharpness of the key in which the inquiry was 
made. " I have no reason to think it's not." 

" Where is Mr. Gammidge 1 " 

" Not in ! " Wonderfully sharp and pert came this 
reply ; constant lying in one groove oils the tongue so 
splendidly. 



206 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" Not in 1 " eclioed Gilbert half savagely. 

" Not in ! Sure to be in later in the day. Got most 
important business on just now for " 

" Stow it ! " The words came not from the white-faced 
young man, nor from Gilbert, but yet they were perfectly 
audible. 

On hearing them, the white-faced young man became 
silent at once, and Gilbert looked round in amazement. 
The muttered groans became fainter, a sound as of clinking 
money was heard, then as of the opening of a door, the 
farewell of a gruff voice, the departure of a thick pair of 
boots ; then one door slammed, and the inner door, which 
Gilbert had noticed on his first entrance, opened, and a 
man stood in the doorway with a beckoning forefinger. 

A short stout man in a brown wig, with a fat unintel- 
ligent face, with heavy pendulous cheeks and a great jowl, 
and a round stupid chin, but with an eye like a beryl — 
small, bright, and luminous ; a man with just sufficient 
intelligence to know that he was considerably overrated, and 
that the best chance for him in keeping up the deception lay 
in affectation of deepest mystery, and in saying as little as 
possible. Mr. Gammidge had been made a hero in certain 
police cases during his professional career, by two or three 
" gentlemen of the press," who had described a few of his 
peculiarities — a peculiar roll of his head, a sonorous manner 
of taking snuff, a half-crow of triumph in his throat when he 
thought he saw his way out of a complication — in their 
various organs. Henceforth these peculiarities were his 
stock-in-trade, and he relied upon them for all his great 
personal effects. 

When Gilbert Lloyd obeyed the influence of the beckon- 
ing forefinger, he passed through the door of communication 
between the inner and outer rooms, and found himself in an 
apartment smaller and not less dingy than that he had left. 
In the middle of it was a large desk, on which were a huge 
leaden inkstand, a few worn quill-pens, and a very inky 
blotting-pad. Sentinel on one flank stood a big swollen 
Post-office Directory, two years old ; sentinel on the other, 
.a stumpy manuscript volume in a loose binding, labelled 
" Cases." The walls blossomed with bills offering large 
sums as rewards for information to be given respecting 
persons who had absconded ; and on a disused and paralytic 



PURSUIT. 



207 



"reen-cloth screen, standing in a helpless attitude close by 
the desk, was pinned a bill, setting forth the Sessions of the 
Central Criminal Court for the year, with the dates on 
which Mr. Gammidge was engaged in any of the trials 
pending distinguished by a broad cross with a black-lead 

pencil. 

As soon as Gilbert Lloyd had entered the room, Mr. 
Gammidge closed the door carefully behind him, and 
placing himself in front of him, indulged him with the 
peculiar roll of the head, while he took a sonorous pinch 
of snuff, and said in a thick confidential voice, " ISTow, 
captin ? " 

" I'm no captain," said Lloyd shortly, " and you don't 
recollect me ; though you're ready to swear you do, and 
though I have employed you before this." 

Lloyd paused here for a moment ; but as Mr. Gammidge 
merely looked at him helplessly, and muttered under his 
breath something about " such a many gents," he went on. 

" My name is Gilbert Lloyd. I manage Lord Ticehurst's 
racing matters for him ; and last year I employed you to 
look after one of our boys, who we thought was going 
wrong ; do you recollect now ? " 

" Perfectly," said Mr. Gammidge, brightening. " Boy 
had been laid hold of by a tout from a sporting-paper, who 
was practisin' on him through his father, given to drink, 
and his sister, on 'oom the tout was supposed to be 
sweet." 

" Exactly ; well, you found that out clearly enough, 
and got us all the information required. Now I want 
you again." 

" More boys goin' wrong, sir ? " asked Mr. Gammidge. 
" They're the out-and-outest young scamps ; they're that 
precocious and knowin' " 

" It's not a boy that I want to know about this time," 
said Lloyd, checking the flow of his companion's eloquence ; 
"it's a woman." 

" That's more in my way ; three-fourths of my business is 
connected with them. Did you 'appen to take any notice 
of the young man in that room as you came through ? He's 
the best ' nose ' in London. Find out anything. Lor' 
bless you, that young man have been in more divorce cases 
than the Serjeant himself. He can hide behind a walking- 



208 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

stick, and see through the pipe of a Chubb's latch-key. 
There's nothing like him in London." 

" Put him on to my business at once, then. Look at 
this card." Mr. Gammidge produced a large pair of 
tortoiseshell-rimmed double eye-glasses, and proceeded to 
make an elaborate investigation. " You know the name 1 
I thought so. Now, your man must keep account of every 
one who goes in here by day or night, so long as she's at 
home ; and when she goes out he must follow her, and, so 
far as he can, find out who speaks to her, and where. 
There is a five-pound note to begin with. You under- 
stand ? " 

" You may look upon it as good as done, sir," said Mr. 
Gammidge, commencing to make a memorandum of the 
number and date of the bank-note in his pocket-book, " and 
to let you know at the old address ? " 

" No ; when he has anything to tell, drop me a line, and 
I'll meet him here. Good-day." 

The white-faced youDg man, entering fully into his new 
occupation, speedily deserved the encomiastic remarks which 
had been lavished upon him by his principal, and in a short 
time Mr. Lloyd was furnished with full information as to 
the personal appearance of the various visitors at the Bays- 
water villa, and of the friends whom Miss Lambert was in 
the habit of meeting away from her home. In both these 
categories Gilbert Lloyd found, as he had expected to find, 
a very accurate representation of Miles Challoner. The 
information, all expected as it was, irritated and chafed him ; 
and he gave up a whole day to considering how he could 
best put a stop to the ripening intimacy between Miles and 
Gertrude, or, at all events, weaken it. Finally, he decided 
on paying a visit to Mrs. Bloxam, and seeing whether she 
could not be frightened with a suspicion perfectly un- 
defined, of something horrible and mysterious which would 
take place if the intimacy were permitted to go on un- 
checked. Accordingly, upon a day when the white-faced 
young man had ascertained that Miss Lambert would be 
for some time absent from home, Mr. Lloyd presented 
himself at the Bay3water villa, and, without sending in his 
name, followed the servant into the room, where Mrs. 
Bloxam was seated. At first sight of the man who had 
dared in former days to invade the sanctity of her sheep- 



REBUFFED. 209 

fold and carry off one of her pet lambs, the old lady was 
exceedingly indignant, and her first impulse was to order 
the intruder to leave the house ; but a moment's reflection 
convinced her that as he yet had the power of being ex- 
ceedingly dangerous to Gertrude, or, at all events, of causing 
her the greatest annoyance, it would be better to temporise. 
She therefore listened to all Gilbert Lloyd's bland assurances 
that, although there was an unfortunate estrangement 
between his wife and himself, he took the greatest interest 
in her career, and it was purely as a matter of friendship 
that he had come to warn her, through her ablest and best 
friend, of the danger she incurred in forming a certain ac- 
quaintance. So well did Mrs. Bloxam play her listening 
part, and so earnest was she in her thanks to her informant, 
that even the ruse turfite was taken in, and went away 
convinced that he had made his coup. 

A few days afterwards he called again, and this time 
asked for Miss Lambert. The servant said that Miss 
Lambert was out. For Mrs. Bloxam : Mrs. Bloxam was 
out. Gilbert Lloyd then took out a card and handed it to 
the servant, begging her to give it to her mistress ; but 
the servant, just glancing at it, handed it back, saying she 
had strict orders, in case the gentleman bearing that name 
ever called again, to refuse him admittance, and to retnrn 
his card. 



CHAPTER V 

EEBUFFED. 

rnHE cool determination of Gertrude's conduct, the reso- 
_L lution which did not shrink from a proceeding calculated 
to excite at least observation by her servants, took 
Gilbert Lloyd completely by surprise. Concealing, by a 
desperate effort, the passion of anger which flamed up in 
him, he turned away from the door, and got into the hansom 
awaiting him ; but when quite out of sight of the gilded- 
bronze gates, and the miniature plantation of the Bayswater 
villa, he stopped the cab, got out, and pulling his hat down 

p 



210 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

over his brow, walked on rapidly, in a mood strange indeed 
to his calculating and self-contained nature. 

By what fatality had this woman once more turned up in 
his life — this woman of whom he was well rid, his marriage 
with whom had been a mistake — a failure — and his parting 
with whom had been the commencement of a new and 
decidedly fortunate era in his life ? His thoughts were in a 
whirl, and for a time resisted his attempts to reduce them 
to order and sequence. The physical convulsion of rage 
claimed to have its way first, and had it. He had known 
that feeling many times in his life — the maddening anger 
which turns the face white and the lips livid, which makes 
the heart beat with suffocating throbs, and dims the sight. 
He knew all about that, and he had to bear it now, and to 
bear it in silence, without the relief of speech, with only 
the aid of solitude. He could not swear at Gertrude now, 
as he had done many a time when annoyance had come to 
him through her ; he could not insult, threaten, strike her 
now ; and much of the fury he felt was due to the power- 
lessness which drove him nearly mad, and which was his 
own doing. Ay, that was the worst of it, the least en- 
durable part of the wrath which raged within him. This 
woman, who had been in his power, and had been made to 
experience the full significance of her position ; who had 
loved him once, and of whom he had wearied, as it was in 
his nature to weary of any desired object when attained, — 
this woman held him in supreme indifference and contempt, 
and set him at naught without fear or hesitation. In the 
force and irrationality of his anger, he forgot that she was 
acting quite within the letter and the spirit of the con- 
vention made between them ; that he it was who had 
abandoned its spirit at almost the first sight of her, and had 
now received a humiliating check in endeavouring to 
violate its letter. For a long time his anger was blind, 
fierce, and unreasoning — directed almost as much against 
himself as against Gertrude — his wife ! his wife ! as he 
called her a hundred times over, in the vain assertion of a 
position which he had voluntarily abdicated, and which he 
knew, in the bottom of his angry heart — even while the 
anger seethed within it — he would not be prepared to re- 
sume, were the opportunity afforded him. But as he walked 
on and on, getting by degrees into outlying regions of the 



REBUFFED. 211 

far west — almost as little known to him as California — the 
habit of calculation, of arranging his thoughts, of (meta- 
phorically) laying his head on the exact process or combina- 
tion which he required — a faculty and habit of which he 
felt the value every day — resumed its sway over him, and 
he no longer raged blindly about what had happened, but 
set himself to think it out. This, then, was a parti pris on 
the part of Gertrude ; this, then, was a game in which he 
was her adversary — with a purpose to gain ; she — his, with 
nothing in view but his defeat. Her cards were resolute 
ignoring of his existence ; the absolute and inexorable ad- 
herence to the agreement made between them at Brighton. 
His cards were persistent following and watching of her, 
which the coincidences of his position and the facility with 
which he could make her circle of acquaintance his, added 
to the exigencies of her professional career, which she could 
not control, however unwelcome they might be, rendered 
easy of playing. The next question was, what end did he 
propose to himself in this sudden revulsion of feeling, this 
sudden irruption into his prosperous and pleasant life of an 
element which he had hoped, intended, and believed to be 
banished from it for ever 1 This question he could not 
answer clearly. The mists of anger and jealousy arose 
between him and the outline of his purpose. Was it to 
undo the past 1 "Was it to woo and win once more this 
woman, whom he had driven away from him, and who had 
just made evident to him the weakness of his determination 
and the strength of her own ? Was it to put himself 
entirely and unreservedly under the yoke of her power, 
from whose possible imposition he had been glad to escape 
by the final expedient to which he had resorted 1 Had he 
any such rash, insane notion as this in his thoughts ? He 
did not know, he was not certain ; he was not sure of any- 
thing but this — that Gertrude had refused to see him, and 
that he was resolved she should, come what might ; she 
should not carry that point, she should not have the triumph 
at once of fidelity to their strange unnatural compact on her 
own part, and of having forced him to break it on his. He 
had dismissed her easily enough from his thoughts, but he 
could not dismiss her from them now ; she kept possession 
of them now, in the pride of her beauty — how handsome 
she was ! he had never supposed she would have grown into 

p 2 



212 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

such commanding, self-possessed beauty as hers was now — 
and in the triumph of her talent — as she had never done 
since the brief earliest days of their disastrous marriage. 
Gilbert Lloyd was a man on whom success of any kind pro- 
duced a strong impression. It counted for much in the 
rekindling of his former passion for Gertrude that she was 
now a successful artist, her supposed name in everyone's 
mouth, holding her own before the world, a woman with a 
position, an entourage, and an independent career. His 
thoughts wandered away among scenes which he had long 
forgotten, in which she was the central figure, and into 
imaginary pictures of her present life ; and he repeated 
over and over again, with rage — waxing dull by this time 
— " But she is my wife ! she is my wife ! no matter what 
she chooses to do, no matter how she chooses to act towards 
me, she is my wife ! I have only to declare it if T choose." 
And the consequences to which she, judging by her present 
couduct, would probably be entirely indifferent — was he 
prepared to face them ? He could not answer this question 
either ; he was not yet cool-headed enough to estimate them 
-aright. 

A devouring curiosity concerning Gertrude took pos- 
session of him — a craving eagerness to know what were her 
^movements, who were her associates, how she lived ; even 
•the disposition of the rooms in her house, and her domestic 
Telations. The absolute ignorance of all these things in 
which he remained, though his imperious will demanded to 
be informed of them, exasperated him ; and with his fruit- 
less anger there was mingled a grim humour, as he thought 
of the scenes through which they had passed together, as he 
recalled Gertrude in the intimacy of their domestic life. 
And now he was the one person in the world from whom 
she concealed herself, the one person shut out from her by a 
barrier erected by her inflexible will. Was he ? Time 
would tell. He had not been ignorant during the some- 
times stormy, sometimes gay and careless, but always un- 
satisfactory, period which preceded their separation, that he 
was by no means so indifferent to Gertrude as she was to 
him. On the contrary, he had realized that clearly and 
plainly, and it had sharpened his anger towards her and 
hardened his heart in the hour of their parting ; and he had 
hated her then, and chafed under the knowledge that she 



REBUFFED. 213 

did not hate him, that she was only glad to be rid of him, 
had only ceased utterly to love him, and learned utterly to 
despise him. Justly esteeming himself to be a good hater, 
Gilbert Lloyd found it difficult to understand how it was 
that he had so soon ceased to hate Gertrude, had so easily 
yielded to the sense of relief in having done witb all that 
portion of his life in which she had a share, and had never 
had any serious thought of her, or speculation about her 
future ; for to such an extent had his cynicism gone now 
that this period of oblivion and ease had in its turn expired, 
and she had again crossed his path to trouble him. He 
could only account for this curious phase through, which he 
had passed by what seemed to him an insufficient reason — 
the new interests in his life, the success which attended his 
speculation in that " rich brute Ticehurst's " affairs — for 
thus did the more fastidious and not less vicious man of the 
two characterize, in his meditations, the coarse animal he 
was devoting himself so successfully to exploiter. Such a 
chance, after so long a run of ill-luck, varied only by a coup 
on which he preferred not to dwell in remembrance — a 
chance, as he thought, with an ominous darkening of his 
evil face, which, if it had only been afforded him a little 
sooner, might have averted the necessity for such a coup, 
was calculated to occupy him entirely, and banish from his 
mind anything which might divert him from the pursuit of 
his object. 

And now it seemed wonderful to him that he could have 
thus forgotten her — now, when he was under the renewed 
spell of her beauty and her scorn. 

There was an extraordinary fascination for him, even in the 
midst of his anger, in the mingled strangeness and familiarity 
with which she presented herself to his mind. He had a. 
good deal of imagination, though but little poetry, in his 
nature, and the extraordinarily exceptional position of this 
woman and himself — the strangeness of the knowledge that 
she had accepted the fact of there being nothing mutual or 
even relative in their position now or ever — appealed, in 
the midst of his passion, to his imagination. 

That she should dare to treat him thus, — that she should 
know him so little as to dare to treat him thus. He thought 
this, he said this more than once through his shut teeth ; 
but he was not a fool, even in his rage, and he knew he wa3 



214 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

talking folly to himself in the moment that he uttered the 
words. Why should she not dare ? Indeed, there was no 
daring about it. He had made the position for himself, and 
he was for the first time brought face to face with all the 
details of it. What was that position externally in the 
world's sight, in the only point of view in which he had any 
practical right to consider it ? Just this : Miss Lambert did 
not choose to admit him to her acquaintance. He was help- 
less j she was in her right. He might force her to meet 
him in the houses of other people — at the Marchioness of 
Carabas' house, for instance — simply because she could not 
afford, out of consideration for her own social position, to 
give up her patroness ; and also (he began to understand 
Gertrude now sufficiently to know that this second argument 
was by far the stronger), because she would never suffer the 
consideration of meeting or not meeting him to influence her 
actions, to form a motive of her conduct in the smallest 
degree. He felt that with a smart twinge of pain, the keen 
pain of mortified self-love. He had simply ceased to exist 
for her — that was all ; she had taken the full sense of their 
convention, and was acting on it tout bonnement. He 
might, therefore, calculate safely upon meeting her, without 
her consent, at other houses than her own ; but, forcing or 
inducing her to admit him there, was, he felt, entirely 
beyond his power. He was wholly insensible to the ex- 
treme incongruity of such a possibility, had it existed ; and 
no wonder, for in their position all was incongruous, and 
propriety or impropriety had lost their meaning. 

In the conflict of feeling and passion in which Gilbert 
Lloyd was thus engaged, there was no element of fierce con- 
tention wanting. Love, or the debased feeling which he 
called and believed to be love, and which fluctuated between 
passion and hate, baffled design, undefined fear, and jealousy, 
in which not merely Gertrude was concerned, ,but another 
who had a place in his life of still darker and more fatal 
meaning, and a more bitterly resented influence over his 
fate. When he had fought out the skirmish with the newly 
reawakened love for the wife whom he had almost forgotten, 
and been beaten, and had been forced to surrender so much 
of the disputed ground to the enemy, fear marshalled its 
forces against him, and pressed him hard. But not to the 
point of victory. Gilbert Lloyd was a man with whom fear 



REBUFFED. 215 

had ueviT had much chance ; and if he had yielded some- 
what to its influence in the separation from his wife, it was 
because that influence had been largely supported by long- 
smouldering discontent, ennui, a coincidence of convenience 
and opportunity, and a deserved conviction that the full 
potency of Gertrude's will was at work in the matter. 
There was little likelihood that fear should master him now; 
but it was there, and he had to stand, and repel its assaults. 
If he attempted to molest, to control Gertrude in any way ; 
if it even became her interest or her pleasure to get rid of 
him in actual fact, in addition to their convenient theory, — 
fear asked him, Can she not do so ? Is she not mistress of 
the situation, of every point of it ? And he answered, Yes. 
If she chose to carry out the divorce — which they had 
mutually instituted without impertinent legal interference — 
would he dare to intervene 1 He remembered how he had 
speculated upon the expediency of encouraging the " rich 
brute's " penchant for the fashionable singer, when he had 
no suspicion who the fashionable singer was ; and a rush of 
fury surged all over him as he thought, if she had chosen to 
encourage him, to marry him, for his rank, would he, 
Gilbert Lloyd, her husband, have dared to interfere ? Fear 
had the best of it there ; but he would not be beaten by 
fear. This enemy was strong mainly because he could not 
rightly calculate its strength. How much did Gertrude 
know, or how little ? Was it knowledge, or suspicion only, 
which had prompted her to the decision she had adopted, 
and the prompt action she had taken upon it 1 To these 
questions it was impossible he could get any answer ; and 
he would, or thought he would, just then — for he was an 
unlikely man to stick to such a bargain, if he could have 
made it — have given years of his life to know what had 
passed that memorable day at Brighton, before he had 
returned to the death-bed of his friend, and there en- 
countered Gertrude. The dying whisper which had con- 
veyed to the young woman the power she had used so 
promptly was unknown by Lloyd ; on this point — the 
great, the essential point of his musings — all was conjecture, 
dark, terrifying, and undefined. 

Had love and fear only possessed his dark soul between 
them, the strife might soon have ended, in a division in 
which the man's own safety would have been consulted. 



21G THE ROCK AHEAD. 

Gilbert Lloyd would have made up his mind that, as his first 
fancy for Gertrude had passed away, so this eccentric re- 
newal of it would also harmlessly decline. The whole 
difficulty might have resolved itself into his persuading 
Ticehurst to go abroad in his company, until the " rich 
brute " should have escaped all risk of an " entanglement," 
which Lloyd would have painted in the most alarming 
colours, and Lloyd himself have recovered from a passing fit 
of weak folly, which he might have been trusted to learn 
to despise, on a sober consideration of its bearing on his in- 
terests in the career in which he had contrived with so much 
difficulty to lancer himself. 

But the look which he had seen in Gertrude's pi'oud calm 
face — the smile which was so absolutely new to him, that it 
would have thrilled him through with jealousy to whom- 
soever addressed, because it revealed to him that she had 
never felt for him that which prompted its soft and trusting 
sweetness — the smile which had fired all the evil passions in 
his exceptionally evil nature — had shown Gilbert a far more 
terrible truth : she had never given him such a smile. Soit. 
He had had such as he had cared for, and he was tired of them, 
and done with them, and as bright and beautiful were to be 
had for love or money, particularly for money. Thus he 
might have thought, half in consoling earnest, half in mor- 
tification, and acted on the reassuring argument. But the 
smile, the unknown smile, which had not lighted her face 
upon their bridal clay, which had never adorned the happiest 
hour — and they had had some happy hours — of their 
marriage, had beamed upon the man whom of all men 
living Gilbert Lloyd hated most bitterly — and that man was 
his brother. His brother, Miles Challoner, their dead 
father's darling son — (and when Lloyd thought of his father 
his face was horrible to see, and his heart was foul with 
curses and unnatural hate, for he hated his dead father more 
than his living brother), — the heir who had been his rival 
always, his master in their nursery, the object of his bit- 
terest envy and enmity when he was so young that it was 
a mystery of the devil how such passions could have a place 
in his childish heart. In the name of the devil, — in whom 
Gilbert Lloyd was almost tempted to believe as he watched 
that smile, and felt the tempest rise in his heart, like the 
waves under the moonbeams, — how had this complication 



REBUFFED. 217 

come about ! This he could readily ascertain, but what 
would it avail him to know it ? If she loved this hated 
brother of his, what could he do ? Enjoy the hideous re- 
venge of keeping quiet, and letting their mutual love grow 
into the blessing and hope of their existence perhaps, and 
then come forward and expose all the truth, and crush the 
two at once? And then? His own share in this, what 
would it be ? Utter ruin ; and for his brother the sympathy 
of the world ! To be sure it would be deep disgrace for the 
woman who, secretly a wife, encouraged a man to love, and 
to hope to win her ; but she could deny her love and the 
encouragement, and nobody could prove either, and she was 
entirely ignorant of the relation subsisting between Miles 
Challoner and him. Of this Gilbert Lloyd did not feel a- 
moment's doubt. Miles would not divulge a fact in which 
a terrible family secret was involved, to anyone ; he had 
taken his line towards Gilbert on their first accidental 
meeting far too decidedly for the existence of any doubt on 
that point. If, on the other hand, Gilbert Lloyd were to 
yield to the promptings of passion and revenge, and betray 
the relationship, ruin of a double kind would inevitably 
overtake him ; vague indeed as to its source or manner, but 
not admitting of any doubt. He knew that such would be 
the case, thus : One communication only had been addressed 
to the man who is here called Gilbert Lloyd, by his father, 
after his sudden departure from Rowley Court. It was 
brief, and contained in the following words : 

'• I have placed in the hands of a friend in vjhom I have 
entire confidence, the narrative of the events which have 
ended with your banishment from my house, and your erasure 
from our family annals for ever. This friend is not ac^ 
qi minted ivith your personal appearance, and cannot therefore 
recognize you, should your future conduct enable you to' 
present yourself in any 'place where he may be found ; but he 
trill be in close and constant intercourse with my son ; and' 
should you venture, either directly or remotely, to injure my 
son, in person, reputation, estate, or by any means what- 
ever, this friend being warned by me to investigate any 
such injury done to my son, on the presumption that iS 
comes from you, will be enabled to identify you ; and, is, i/t, 
such case, bound to me by a solemn promise to expose the 
whole of the fads, and the proofs in his jwssession, in such 



218 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

manner as he may judge best for bringing you most certainly 
and expeditiously to that punishment which human weakness 
has prevented my being the means of inflicting upon you. 
I give you this information and warning, in the interest of 
my son, and also because I desire to turn you, by the only 
motive available for my purpose, from the commission of a 
crime whose penalty no one's weakness will enable you to 
evade." 

Gilbert Lloyd had never been able during all the vicissi- 
tudes of his career — in all its levities, its successes, its failures, 
its schemes — to forget the warning, or even the phrasing, of 
this terrible letter. He had burned it in a fury which 
would have hardly been assuaged by the blood of the writer, 
and had tried to persuade himself afterwards that he scoffed 
at the suspicions and the threat and the precaution alike. 
But the effort failed : he did not scoff — he believed and 
feared, and remembered ; and in this strange and ominous 
complication, which had brought his brother across his path 
under circumstances which any man might have feared, he 
felt the futility of his pretended indifference to an extent 
which resembled terror. 

He wondered at himself now, when he remembered that 
whenever he had thought about his wife at all in the early 
days after their separation, in the few and scattered specu- 
lations which had arisen in his mind about her, the idea of 
her ever loving another man had found no place. So in- 
tense was his egotism, that, though he did not indulge in 
the mere vanity of believing that she still loved him, and 
would repent the step she had taken, he did not in the least 
realise her matter-of-fact emancipation from the ties which 
they loosed by mutual consent. He had sometimes wondered 
whether she got on well with her liberty and her hundred 
pounds ; whether she had gone back to the drudgery of 
school-life, in the intensified form that drudgery assumes to 
a teacher ; whether she had any friends, and how she ac- 
counted to them for her isolation ; with other vague and 
placid vaticinations. But that this young and handsome 
woman, who had found out the unworthiness of her first 
love, had been rudely awakened from her woman's dream 
of happiness, and had exchanged all the sentiment with 
which she had regarded him for horror and contempt, and 
a steadily maintained purpose of utter separation — that she 



BEBUFFED. 219 

should have a second love, should dream again, never oc- 
curred to him. As little had he thought about the proba- 
bility of his meeting her in the widely divergent course 
which his own life had taken from any within the previous 
experience of either. But he had met her ; and one of the 
unexpected results of that undesirable event was to awaken 
him, with a shock, to the strongest suspicion that she did 
love and dream again, and that the object of the love and 
the dream was the man he most hated — was his brother. 
How Gilbert Lloyd would have regarded this circumstance, 
had he carried out his acceptation of the situation with 
such good faith and such complete indifference as Gertrude 
evinced, had he been able to see her again perfectly unmoved 
and without the slightest wish to alter anything in their 
position, he did not stop seriously to consider. This might 
have been ; and for a minute or two his mind glanced at 
certain cynical possibilities in such a case, which might have 
enabled him to gratify his spite towards both his wife and 
his brother, in comparative security. But it was not ; and 
that which was, absorbed him wholly. 

Alternately raging against the feelings which possessed 
him, and arranging the facts of the case in order, and 
forcing himself to ponder them with his accustomed cool- 
ness, Gilbert Lloyd walked on for many miles without 
taking note of distance. When at length he bethought 
him of the time, and consulted his watch, he found he must 
hasten back to town, to be ready to dine with the " rich 
brute," who was to entertain a party of choice spirits de- 
voted to the turf that day. The occasion was an important, 
and Gilbert Lloyd intended that it should be a profitable, 
one. In the midst of the anger and perturbation of his 
spirit, he was quite capable of attending to his own and his 
patron's interests — when they were identical ; and there was 
no mental process, involving no matter what amount of 
passion or scheming or danger, which Gilbert Lloyd could 
not lay aside — ranged in its due place in his memory — to 
await its fitting time ; a valuable faculty, and not a little 
dangerous in the possession of a man at war, more or less 
openly, with society. 

The next day, as Gilbert Lloyd, as usual admirably 
mounted, turned into the Park, and made for the then 
almost deserted Lady's Mile, a carriage swept rapidly by. 



220 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

Two ladies occupied the back-seat, and on the front Lloyd 
beheld the unusual apparition of Lord Sandilands. The 
ladies were the Marchioness of Carabas and Miss Lambert. 
They saw him ; and Lady Carabas gave him a bow at once 
graciously graceful and deliciously familiar ; but Miss 
Lambert looked straight before her with such exquisitely 
perfect unconsciousness, that it never occurred to either of 
her companions that she had recognised Gilbert Lloyd. 

Then savage anger took possession of him once more, 
and scattered all the process of thought he had been going 
through to the winds, and he swore that, come what might, 
he would meet her where it would be impossible for her to 
avoid him. 



CHAPTER VI. 

GERTRUDE SPEAKS. 

LORD TICEHURST'S attachment to the turf was by no 
means of a lukewarm or of a perfunctory character. 
He was not one of the young men of the present day, who 
keep a racing-stud as they keep anything else, merely for 
their amusement ; who exult indecently when they are suc- 
cessful, who are even more indecently depressed, when they 
are unfortunate. Having such a man as Gilbert Lloyd for 
his " confederate," manager, and agent, the young nobleman 
did not require to look into the details of his stud and his 
stable as he otherwise would have done ; but nothing was 
ever done without his knowledge and approval, and his 
heart was as much bound up in turf-matters as it had been 
when, under the initiation of Plater Dobbs, he first made 
his entrance into the Ring. Perhaps if this attachment to 
racing-matters and racing-men had been less strong, Lord 
Ticehurst would have noticed a certain change in Lloyd's 
manner towards him which would have displeased him 
much. For, notwithstanding that he struggled hard against 
the display of any such feeling, there arose in Gilbert's 
breast a sullen animosity, a dogged dislike to his friend and 
patron, which very often would not be kept down, but 
came surging up into his face, and showed itself in knit 



(iERTRUDE SI'EAKS. 221 

brows and tightened lips, and hard cold insolence of bearing. 
This was very different from the deep and bitter hatred witli 
which Gilbert Lloyd regarded Miles Challoner, though it 
sprang from the same cause, the admiration which each of 
them felt for Gertrude. In the present state of his feelings 
for her, it enraged Gilbert to think that any one should dare 
to pay attention to one who had been, who by the law still 
was, his property ; but the depth and measure of his 
hatred was very much acted upon by the knowledge that 
Lord Ticehurst was merely regarded by Gertrude as one of 
a hundred hangers-on, while Miles Challoner stood in a very 
different position. But though this angry feeling from time 
to time got the better of Gilbert Lloyd's usually placid and 
equable temperament, and led to exhibitions of temper 
which he was afterwards frightened at and ashamed of, they 
were never noticed by the kindly-hearted, thick-headed 
young man whom he had in training, or, if they were, were 
ascribed to some of those " tighteners " and " botherations" 
which were supposed to fall naturally to " old Gilbert's " lot 
in transacting his business of the turf. " There's bad news 
up from the Pastures, I suppose," Lord Ticehurst would say 
to some of his friends, after the occurrence of some little 
episode of the kind; "old Gil's uncommon cranky this 
mornin', and no two ways about it. It's always best to 
leave him to come round by himself when he is in this way, 
so lets you and me go down to B-ummer's and get some lun- 
cheon." But throughout all his annoyances, and the reno- 
vated passion for his wife, — passion of the strongest, wildest, 
most enslaving kind, was now always present in his heart, — 
Gilbert Lloyd held carefully to his business career, losing no 
opportunity of showing himself of service to his pupil, 
and taking every care that his pupil was made aware of the 
fact. 

" I say, Etchingham," said Gilbert one morning, glancing 
up from his accounts at his lordship, who was moodily 
looking out of window, smoking, and wondering whether he 
should propose to Miss Lambert before the season finally 
broke up, or leave it until next spring, — " I say, Etching- 
ham, I'm pretty near sick of town." 

"Same here!" replied his lordship ; " fusty and beastly, 
ain't it 1 Well, we're close upon cutting it ; it's Goodwood 
the week after next, aud then there's Brighton " 



222 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" O, curse Brighton ! " broke in Lloyd. 

" All right," said Lord Ticehurst, lazily dropping into a 
chair. " Curse Brighton by all means. But what a rum 
fellow you are ! You wouldn't go to the Brighton Meeting 
last year ; and I recollect that there was a talk about it at 
Bummer's ; and Jack Manby — the Bustard, you know — 
said you'd never go there again, since in Gaslight's year, I 
think he said, the sea-air spoiled your complexion." 

" Manby's a chattering idiot," said Lloyd, savagely ; " and 
next time you hear men talking of why I don't go to the 
Brighton Meeting, you may say I don't go because it isn't 
a meeting at all, a third-rate concern with a pack of platers 
to run, and a crowd of cockneys to look at them. You may 
say that." 

" Much obliged," said Lord Ticehurst ; " you may say it 
yourself, if you want to. I don't hold with mixin' myself 
up in other fellows' shines ; " and he sucked solemnly at his 
cigar, and did his best to look dignified. 

" My dear old Etchingham, don't be angry. I was vexed 
at hearing you repeat the gabble of those infernal fellows at 
that filthy tavern — it isn't anything better — because it's not 
only about me they talk. However, that's neither here nor 
there. I suppose you'll have the wind-up dinner at Rich- 
mond as usual." 

" All right, Gil, my boy ! " said his good-tempered lord- 
ship ; " there's no bones broke, and it's all squared. Of 
course we'll have the dinner. Let's see," looking at his 
memorandum-book ; " Friday-week, how will that suit i 
Mrs. Stapleton Burge's party. 0, ah, that's nothing ! " he 
added quickly, growing very red. 

" Very well," said Gilbert quietly. " Friday-week, since 
you've only got Mrs. Stapleton Burge's party ; and that's 
nothing, you say. Friday-week will do. I'm to ask the 
usual lot, I suppose 1 " 

" Yes, ustial lot, and one or two more, don't you think ? 
It was deuced slow last time, I remember. Only old 
Toshington to talk, and everybody's tired of his old gab. 
Ask some one to froth it up a bit, one of those writing- 
fellows one sees at some houses, or an actor who can mimic 
fellows, and that kind of thing, don't you know 1 " 

" I know," said Gilbert, by no means jumping at the 
suggestion ; " but I generally find that your clever fellows 



GERTRUDE SPEAKS. 223 

who write are miserable unless they have all the talk to 
themselves ; and the actors are insulted if you ask them to 
do any of their hanky-panky, as though, by Jove, they'd be 
invited for anything else. However, I'll look up some of 
them, and do my best. Anybody else 1 " 

" Xo, I think not. Unless, by the way, you were to ask 
that man that my aunt's taken up lately — Challoner." 

The name brought the blood into Gilbert's face, and he 
paused a moment before he said : "I don't think I'd have 
that fellow, Etchingham, if I were you." 

" What's the matter with him ? Ain't he on the square ? 
Bad egg, and that kind of thing 1 " 

" I know very little about him," said Gilbert, fixing his 
eyes on Lord Ticehurst's face ; " nothing, indeed, for the 
matter of that ; and he's never crossed me, and never will 
have the opportunity. I said, ' if I were you.' " 

" Yes, well — I know. Drop the riddle business and speak 
out. What do you mean 1 " 

" Plainly, then, I've noticed — and I can't imagine how it 
has failed to escape you — that this man Challoner is making 
a strong running for a lady for whom I have heard you pro- 
fess the greatest admiration — Miss Lambert." 

" O, ah, yes — thanks ; all right," said Lord Ticehurst, 
looking more foolish than usual — in itself a stupendous feat ; 
" well, I ain't spooney particularly on Challoner, so you 
needn't ask him." 

Peers of the realm, and persons known as " public 
characters," command more civility and attention in England 
than any one else. With tradesmen, hotel-waiters, and 
railway-porters this feeling is so strongly developed that 
they will leave any customer to serve a great lord or a 
popular comedian. Lord Ticehurst's name stood very high 
at the Crown and Sceptre at Richmond, not merely because 
he was an earl — they see plenty of them during the season 
at the Crown and Sceptre — but because he was freespoken, 
lavish with his money, and " had no cussed pride about 
him." Consequently, whenever he dined there the dinner 
was always good, which is by no means always the case at 
the C. and S. ; and the present occasion was no exception. 
There were about twenty guests, all men, and nearly all men 
of one set, who, though they were mostly well-born, and, in 
the main, tolerably educated, apparently never sought for 



224 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

and certainly never attained any other society. The outside 
world was familiar with their names, through seeing them 
printed in the newspapers as attending the various great 
race-meetings ; and with their personal appearance, 
through seeing them at Tattersall's and in the Park, 
especially on Sundays in the season. Some had chambers 
in the Albany, some in smaller and cheaper sets ; many of 
them lived humbly enough in one bedroom in the lodging- 
house-swarming streets round St. James's ; all of them 
haunted Rummer's in Conduit-street ; and most of them 
belonged to some semi-turf, semi-military, whole card-and- 
billiard-playing club. Some of them were believed to be 
married, but their wives were never seen with them by any 
chance ; for they never went into society, to the opera, or 
the theatres ; and they were always ptrt into the bachelor 
quarters at country-houses, and into the topmost rooms at 
the hotels, where they treated the female domestics in a 
pleasant and genial way, a compound of the manners of the 
groom and the commercial batnnan. 

They gathered in full force at the Crown and Sceptre that 
lovely July afternoon ; for they knew that they would have 
a good dinner and wine without stint. Captain Dafter was 
there — a little wiry man with sandy scraps of whisker and 
■a mean little white face, but who was the best amateur 
steeplechase rider in England, with limbs of steel and daunt- 
less pluck. Next to him sat a fat, heavy-headed, large- 
jowled man, with a face the shape and colour of an ill- 
baked quartern loaf ; a silent stupid-looking man, who ate 
and drank enormously, and said, and apparently understood, 
nothing ; but who was no less a personage than the " Great 
Northern," as he was called, from having been born at 
Carlisle ; the enormous bookmaker and King of the Ring, 
who began life as a plumber with eighteenpence, and was 
then worth hundreds of thousands. There, too, with his 
neatly-rolled whiskers and his neatly-tied blue bird's-eye 
•scarf, with its plain solid gold horse-shoe pin, was Dolly 
•Clarke, the turf-lawyer. Years ago Dolly would have 
thought himself lucky if he ever made six hundred a-year. 
Six thousand is now nearer Dolly's annual income, all 
brought about by his own talent, and " not standing on any 
repairs," as he put it, a quality which is to be found in the 
•dictionary under the word " unscrupulousness ; " for when 



GERTRUDE SPEAKETII. JZO 

old Mr. Snoxell, inventor of the Pilgrim' s-Progress Leather 
for tender feet, died, and left all his money to his son Sam, 
who had been bred to the law, Sam took Dolly Clarke into 
partnership, and by combining shrewdness with bill-dis- 
counting, and a military connection with a knowledge of 
turf-matters, they did a splendid business. You would 
almost mistake Dolly Clarke for a gentleman now, and 
Samuel Snoxell calls all the army by their Christian names. 
Next to Dolly Clarke was Mr. Bagwax, Q.C., always 
retained in cases connected with the turf, and rather pre- 
ferring to be on the shaky and shady side, which affords op- 
portunities for making great fun out of would-be-honest 
witnesses, and making jokes which, of all the persons in 
court, are not least understood by Mr. Justice Martingale, 
who knows a horse from a wigblock, and is understood to 
have at one time heard the chimes at midnight. The re- 
doubtable Jack Manby, called " the Bustard," because in his 
thickness of utterance he was in the habit of declaring that 
he " didn't care about bustard so long as he got beef," was 
there ; and old Sam Roller, the trainer, looking something 
like a bishop, and something more like Mr. Soapey Sponge's 
friend, Jack Spraggon ; and a tall thin gentlemanly man, 
who looked like a barrister, and who was " Haruspex," the 
sporting prophet of the Statesman. Nor had Gilbert Lloyd 
forgotten his patron's hint about the enlivening of the com- 
pany by the representatives of literature and the drama. 
Mr. Wisbottle, the graphic writer, the charming essayist, 
the sparkling dramatist ; Wisbottle, who was always 
turning up in print when you least expected him ; Wis- 
bottle, of whom his brilliant friend and toady M'Boswell had 
remarked that he had never tetigited anything which he 
hadn't ornavited ; — Wisbottle represented literature, and 
represented it in a very thirsty and talkative, not to say 
flippant, manner. As the drama's representative, behold 
Mr. Maurice Mendip, a charming young fellow of fifty-five, 
who, in the old days of patent theatres and great tra- 
gedians, would have alternated Marcellus with Bernardo, 
playing Horatio for his benefit, when his landlady, friends, 
and family from Bermondsey came in with tickets sold for 
his particular behoof, but who, in virtue of loud lungs and 
some faint reminiscence of what he had seen done by his 
betters, played all the "leading business" in London when 

Q 



226 THE BOCK AHEAD. 

he could get the chance, and was the idolized hero of Cali- 
fornian gold-diggers and Australian aborigines. He -was, 
perhaps, a little out of place at such a party, being heavy, 
grave, and taciturn ; but most people knew his name, and 
when told who he was, said, " 0, indeed ! " and looked at 
him with that mixture of curiosity and impertinence with 
which " public characters " are generally regarded. The 
other guests were men more or less intimately connected 
with the turf, who talked to each other in a low grumbling 
monotone, and whose whole desire was to get the better of 
each other in every possible way. 

The dinner, which had called forth loud encomiums, was 
over ; the cigars were lighted, and the conversation had been 
proceeding briskly, when in a momentary lull Dolly Clarke, 
who had the reputation for being not quite too fond of 
Gilbert Lloyd, said in a loud voice : " Well, my lord, and 
after Goodwood comes Brighton, and of course you hope to 
be as lucky there." 

" We've got nothing at Brighton," replied Lord Tice- 
hurst, looking uneasily towards where Gilbert was occupying 
the vice-chair. 

" Nothing at Brighton ! " echoed Dolly Clarke, very loud 
indeed ; " why, how's that 1 " 

" Because we don't choose, Mr. Clarke," said Gilbert, 
from the other end of the table — he had been drinking more 
than his wont, and there was a strained, flushed look round 
his eyes quite unusual to him — " because we don't choose ; I 
suppose that's reason enough." 

" O, quite," said Dolly Clarke, with a short laugh. " I 
spoke to Lord Ticehurst, by the way ; but in your case I 
suppose it's not an ' un tradesmanlike falsehood ' if you repre- 
sent yourself as ' the same concern.' However, you used to 
go to Brighton, Lloyd." 

" Yes," replied Gilbert quickly, " and so used you, when 
you were Wiggins and Proctor's outdoor clerk at eighteen 
shillings a-week : — by the excursion-train ! Times have 
changed with both of us." 

" Lloyd had him there, Jack," whispered Bagwax, Q.C., to 
his neighbour the Bustard. " Impudent customer, Master 
Clarke ! I recollect 'well when he used to carry a bag and 
serve writs, and all that ; and now " 

" Hold on a binnit," said the Bustard ; " he's an awkward 



GERTRUDE SPEAKS. 227 

customer is Clarke, and he'll show Gilbert no bercy." And, 
indeed, there was a look in Mr. Dolly Clarke's ordinarily 
smiling, self-satisfied face, and a decision in the manner in 
which his hand had, apparently involuntarily, closed upon 
the neck of the claret-jug standing in front of him, that 
augured ill for the peace of the party in general, or the 
personal comfort of Gilbert Lloyd in particular. But old 
Sam Roller's great spectacles had happened to be turned 
towards the turf-lawyer at the moment ; and the old fellow, 
seeing how matters stood, had telegraphed to Lord Ticehurst, 
while Mr. Wisbottle touched Clarke's knee with one hand 
underthe table, and removed the claret-jug from his grasp with 
the other, whispering, " Drop it, dear old boy ! What's the 
good 1 You kill him, and have to keep out of the way, and 
lose all the business in Davies-street. He kills you, acd 
what becomes of the policies for the little woman at Boe- 
hampton ? Listen to the words of Wisbottle, the preacher, 
my chick, and drop it." And it having by this time dawned 
upon Lord Ticehurst that there was something wrong, thac 
young nobleman cut into the conversation in a very energetic 
and happy manner, principally dilating upon the necessity 
of his guests drinking as much and as fast as they possibly 
could. The first part of the proposition seemed highly 
popular, but certain of the company objected to being 
hurried with their liquor, and demanded to know the 
reason of their being thus pressed. Then Lord Ticehurst 
explained that he was under the necessity of putting in an 
appearance that night at the house of a very particular 
friend, where an evening party was being held ; that it was 
an engagement of long-standing, and one which it was 
impossible for him to get off. This, he added, need be no 
reason for breaking up their meeting ; he should only be too 
delighted if they would stop as long as they pleased ; and he 
was quite sure that his worthy vice would come up to that 
end of the table, and fill his place much more worthily than 
it had hitherto been filled. 

But to this proposition there was a great deal of demur. 
Several of the guests, keen men of business, with the 
remembrance of the morrow's engagements and work before 
them, and having had quite sufficient wine, were eager to be 
off. Others, who would have remained drinking so long as 
any drink was brought, scarcely relished their cups under 

q2 



228 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

the presidency of Gilbert Lloyd, who was regarded by them 
as anything but a convivalist ; while others, again, had en- 
gagements in town which they were anxious to fulfil. 
Moreover, the plan proposed by his patron was anything 
but acceptable to Gilbert Lloyd himself. Ordinarily almost 
abstemious, he had on this occasion taken a great deal of 
wine, and, though he was by no means intoxicated, his 
pulses throbbed and his blood was heated in a manner very 
unusual with him. From the first moment of Ticehurst's 
mentioning that he was going on this evening to a party at 
Mrs. Stapleton Burge's house, Gilbert felt convinced, by his 
friend's manner, that he must have some special attraction 
there, and that that attraction must be the presence of 
Gertrude. This thought — the feeling that she would be 
there, surrounded by courtiers and flatterers — worried and 
irritated him, and every glass of wine which he swallowed 
increased his desire to see her that night. What matter if 
he had been rebuffed ! That was simply because he had not 
had the chance of speaking to her. Give him that oppor- 
tunity, and she would tell a very different tale. He should 
have that opportunity if he met her face to face in society ; 
it would be impossible for her, without committing a 
palpable rudeness — and Gilbert Lloyd knew well that she 
would never do that — to avoid speaking to him. Chateau 
qui parte est pret de se rendre. A true proverb that ; and 
he made up his mind to tell Lord Ticehurst to take him to 
Mrs. Stapleton Burge's gathering, and to run his chance with 
Gertrude. 

So that when he heard his patron propound that he should 
remain behind, to fan into a flame the expiring embers of an 
orgie which, even at its brightest, had afforded him no 
amusement, his disgust was extreme, and uncomplimentary 
as they were to himself, he fostered and repeated the excuses 
which he heard on all sides. Nor did he content himself 
with passive resistance, but went straight to Lord Ticehurst, 
and taking him aside, told him that this was, after all, only 
a " duty dinner ; " that all that was necessary had been 
done, and that it was better they should break up then and 
there. " Moreover," said he, " I've a fancy to go with you 
to-night. You're always telling me I don't mix enough in 
what you call society ; and as this is the end of the seasoD, 
and we're not likely to be — well, I was going to say 



GERTIIUDE SPEAKS. 229 

bothered with women's parties for a long time, I don't mind 
going with you ; in fact, I should rather like it. These 
fellows have done very well, and we can now leave them to 
shift for themselves." Lord Ticehurst's astonishment at 
this suggestion from his Mentor was extreme. " What a 
queer chap you are, Gil ! " he said ; "when I've asked you 
to go to all sorts of houses, first-class, where everything is 
done in great form and quite correct, you've stood out and 
fought shy, and all that kind of thing. And now you want 
to go to old Mother Burge's, — old cat who stuffs her rooms 
with a lot of people raked up here and there ! 'Pon my 
soul there's no knowing where to have you, and that's about 
the size of it ! " But in this matter, as in almost every 
other, the young man gave way to his friend, and the party 
broke up at once ; and Lord Ticehurst and Gilbert Lloyd 
drove home to Hill-street, dressed themselves, and proceeded 
to Mrs. Stapleton Burge's reception. 

Mrs. Stapleton Burge lived in a very big house in Great 
Swaffham-street, close out of Park-lane, and though a very 
little black-faced woman herself, did everything on a very 
large scale. Her footmen were enormous creatures, prize- 
fed, big-whiskered, ambrosial ; her chariot was like a family 
ark ; the old English characters in which her name and 
address were inscribed surged all over her big cards. She 
had a big husband, a fat, fair man with a protuberant chest, 
and receding forehead, and little eyes, who was a major in 
some Essex yeomanry, and who was generally mistaken by 
his guests for the butler. Everybody went to Mrs. Staple- 
ton Burge's; and she, sometimes accompanied by the major, 
but more frequently without him, went everywhere. No- 
body could give a reason for either proceeding. When the 
Stapleton Burges went out of town at the end of the season, 
nobody knew where they went to. Some people said to the 
family place in Essex, but Tommy Toshington said that was 
all humbug ; he'd looked up the county history, and there 
wasn't any such place as Fenners ; and he, Tommy, thought 
they either retired to the back of the house in Great 
Swaffham-street, or took lodgings at Ramsgate. But the 
next season they appeared again, as blooming and as big as 
ever. Lord Ticehurst, in his description of Mrs. Burge's 
parties, scarcely did that worthy woman justice. People 
said, and truly, that those gatherings were " a little 



230 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

mixed ; " but Lady Tintagel took care that some of the 
very best people in London were seen at them. If Mrs. 
Burge would have her own friends, that, Lady Tintagel said, 
was no affair of hers. Mrs. Burge swore by Lady Tintagel, 
and the major swore at her. " If it wasn't for that con- 
founded woman," he used to say, " we shouldn't be going 
through all this tomfoolery, but should be living quietly 

at " He was never known to complete the sentence. 

Lady Tintagel was Mrs. Burge's sponsor in the world of 
fashion, and the major lent money to Lord Tintagel, who 
was an impecunious and elderly nobleman. When Lady 
Tintagel presided over a stall at an aristocratic fancy-fair for 
the benefit of a charity, Mrs. Burge furnished the said stall, 
and took Lady Tlntagel's place thereat during the dull 
portion of the day. Lady Tintagel's celebrated tableaux 
vivants were held in Mrs. Burge's big rooms in Great Swaff- 
ham-street, the Tintagel establishment being carried on in a 
two-roomed house in Mayfair. Mrs. Burge " takes " Lady 
Tintagel to various places of an evening, when the Tintagel 
jobbed horses are knocked up, and never has " her ladyship " 
out of her mouth. 

When Lord Ticehurst and Gilbert Lloyd arrived at the 
hospitable mansion, they found the rooms crowded. It was 
a great but trying occasion for Mrs. Burge — trying, because 
it was plainly the farewell fete of the season ; and all the 
guests were talking to one another of where they were going 
to, while she, poor woman, had a dreary waste of seven 
months before her, to be passed away from the delights of 
fashionable life. To how many people did she promise a 
speedy meeting at Spa, at Baden, in the Highlands, in 
Midland country-houses? and all her interlocutors placed 
their tongues in their cheeks, and knew that until the next 
summons of Parliament drew the town together, and simul- 
taneously produced a card of invitation from Mrs. Burge, 
they should not meet the hostess of the night. Meantime, 
the success of the present gathering was unimpeachable. 
Everybody who was left in London had rallied round 
Great Swaffham-street ; and there was no doubt but that 
the Morning Post of the coming day would convey to the 
ends of the civilized world a list of fashionables which would 
redound in the most complete manner to the eclat of Mrs. 
Stapleton Burge. 



GERTRUDE SPEAKS. 231 

The necessary form of introduction had been gone through 
— scarcely necessary, by the way, in Great Swafi'ham- street ; 
for the men always averred that Mrs. Burge never knew 
half the people at her own parties — and Lord Ticehurst, 
having done his duty in landing Gilbert, had strolled away 
among the other convives, with what object Gilbert well 
enough knew. He, Gilbert Lloyd, had rather a habit ot 
trusting to chance in matters of this kind ; and, on the pre- 
sent occasion, he found that chance befriended him. For 
while his patron, eager and anxious-eyed, went roaming 
round the room in hot search for the object of his thoughts, 
Gilbert, no less anxious, no less determined, remained 
quietly near the entrance-door, and narrowly watched each 
passing face. He knew most of them. A London man ci 
half a dozen seasons can scarcely find a fresh face in any 
evening party on which he may chance to stumble. We go 
on in our different sets, speaking to every other person we 
meet, and familiar with the appearance of all the rest — 
what freshness and variety ! Some of the passers-by raised 
their eyebrows in surprise at seeing Lloyd in such a place ; 
others nodded and smiled, and would have stopped to speak 
but for the plain noli-me-tangere expression which he wore. 
He returned the nods and grins in a half-preoccupied, half- 
sullen manner, and it was not until he heard Miles Chal- 
loner's voice close by him that he seemed thoroughly roused. 
Then he drew back from the door-post, against which he had 
been leaning, and ensconcing himself behind the broad back 
of a stout old gentleman, his neighbour, saw Gertrude enter 
the room, on Miles Challoner's arm. They bad been 
dancing ; she was flushed and animated, and looked 
splendidly handsome, as evidently thought her companion. 
Her face was upturned to his, and in her eyes was a frank 
honest look of love and trust, such a look as Gilbert Lloyd 
recollected to have seen there when he first knew her years 
ago, but which had soon died out, and had never reappeared 
until that moment. And it was for Miles Challoner that 
her spirits had returned, her love and beauty had been re- 
newed ; for Miles Challoner, whom he hated with a deadly 
hate, who had been his rock ahead throughout his life, and 
who was now robbing him of what indeed he had once 
thrown aside as valueless, but what he would now give 

oilds to repossess. Gilbert Lloyd's face, all the features of 



".V 



232 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



which were so well trained and kept in such constant sub- 
jection, for once betrayed him, and the evil passion gnawing 
at his heart showed itself in his fiery eyes, surrounded by a 
strained hot flush, and in his rigidly set mouth. Tommy 
Tosbington, tacking about the room to avoid the pressure of 
the crowd, and coming suddenly round Lloyd's stout 
neighbour, was horrified by the expression in Gilbert's 
face. 

" Why, what's the matter, Lloyd, my boy 1 " asked the 
old gentleman ; " you look quite ghastly, by Jove ! Ellis's 
claret not disagreed with you, has it ? " 

" Not a bit of it, Tommy ; I'm all right," said Gilbert 
with an effort ; " room's a little hot — perhaps that's made 
me look a little white." 

" Look a little white ! Dammy, you looked a little black 
■when I first caught sight of you. You were scowling away 
at somebody ; I couldn't make out who." 

"Not I," said Gilbert, with an attempt at a laugh ; "I 
was only thinking of something." 

" O, shouldn't do that," said Mr. Toshington ; " devilish 
stupid thing thinking ; never comes to any good, and makes 
a fellow look deuced old. Lots of people here to-night ; " 
then looking round and sinking his voice, " and rather a 
mixture, eh 1 I can't think where some of the people come 
from ; one never sees them anywhere else." And the old 
gentleman, whose father had been a dissenting hatter at 
Islington, propped his double gold-eyeglass on his nose, 
and surveyed the company with a look of excessive hauteur. 

" See ! " he said presently, nudging Gilbert with his 
elbow ; " you reck'lect what I told you, down at the Crystal 
Palace that day, about Etchingham and Miss What-do-you- 
call-'em, the singer ! — that it wasn't any go for my lord, 
because there was another fellow cutting in in that quarter 
— you reck'lect 1 Well, look here, here they are, — What's- 
his-name, Chaldecott or something, and the girl." 

" I see them," said Lloyd, drawing back. 

" All right," said Toshington ; " you needn't hide your- 
self ; don't you be afraid, they're much too much taken up 
with each other to be looking at us. Gad, she's a devilish 
pretty girl, that, ain't she, Lloyd 1 There's a sort of a some- 
thing about her which — such a deuced good style too, and 
way of carryiu' herself ! Gad, as to most of the women now 



GERTRUDE SPEAKS. 235 

— set of dumpy little brutes ! — might be kitchen-maids, 
begad ! " 

" Just look, Toshington, will you ? I can't see, for this 
old fool's shoulder's in the way. Has Challoner left Miss 
Lambert 1 " 

" Yes, he's stepped aside to speak to Lady Carabas ; Miss 
Lambert is standing by the mantelpiece, and " 

'• All right, back in half-a-second ! " and made straight for 
the place where Gertrude was standing. 

" Now, that's a funny thing ! " said old Toshington to 
himself, as he looked after him. " What does that mean ? 
Is Lloyd making the running for his master, or is that a 
little commission on his own account 1 No go either way, I 
should say ; the man in the beard means winning there, and 
no one else has a chance." 

As Gilbert Lloyd crossed the room, Gertrude looked up, 
and their eyes met. The next instant she looked round for 
Miles Challoner, but he was still busily engaged in talking 
to Lady Carabas. Then she saw some other ladies of her 
acquaintance, seated within a little distance, and she deter- 
mined on crossing the room to them. But she had scarcely 
moved a few steps when Gilbert Lloyd was by her side. 
Gertrude's heart beat rapidly ; she scarcely heard the first 
words of salutation which Gilbert uttered ; she looked 
quickly round and saw that, though Miles was still stand- 
ing by Lady Carabas's chair, his eyes were fixed on her and 
Lloyd. What could she do 1 What is that her husband 
says 1 

" Too much of this fooling ! You must hear me now 1 " 

With an attempt at a smile, Gertrude turned to her per- 
secutor and said, " Once for all, leave me ! " 

" I will not," said he, in a low voice, but also with a smile 
on his face. " You cannot get away from me without ex- 
citing the suspicion, or the wonder at least, of the room. 
How long do you imagine I am going to let this pretty little 
play proceed 1 How long am I to look on and see the 
puppets dallying 1" 

Gertrude flushed scarlet as he said these words, but she- 
did not speak. 

<: You're carrying this business with too high a hand," 
said he, emboldened by her silence. " You seem to forget 
that I have a word or two to say in the matter." 



234 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

"See, Gilbert Lloyd," said Gertrude, still smiling and 
playing with, her fan, " you sought me ; not I you. Go 
now, and " 

"Go!" said Gilbert, who saw Miles Challoner looking 
hard at them, — "go, that he may come ! Go ! You give 
your orders freely ! What hold have you on me that I am 
to obey them ? " 

" Would you wish me to tell you ? " 

" Tell away ! " said Lloyd, defiantly. " I don't mind." 

" Here, then," said Gertrude, beckoning him a little closer 
with her fan, then whispering behind it. But one short 
sentence, a very few words, but, hearing them, Gilbert 
Lloyd turned death-white, and felt the room reel round 
before him. In an instant he recovered sufficiently to make 
a bow, and to leave the room and the house. When he got 
out into the street, the fresh air revived him ; he leaned for 
a moment against some railings to collect his thoughts ; and 
as he moved off, he said aloud, " He did suspect it, then ; 
and he told her ! " 



CHAPTER VII. 

HALF-REVEALED. 

OF all the places on which the autumnal moon, ap- 
proaching her full like a comely matron, looks down, 
there are many far less picturesque and less enjoyable than 
that bit of Robertson-terrace, St. Leonards, which adjoins 
the narrow strip of beach communicating with the old 
town of Hastings proper. On this beach the moonbeams 
play 

"Among the waste and lumber of the shore, 
Hard coils of cordage, swarthy fishing nets, 
Anchors of rusty fluke, and boats updrawn," 

casting grim and fantastic shadows, and bringing oddest 
objects into unwonted and undue prominence. Robertson- 
terrace — a3 hideous, architecturally considered, as are the 
majority of such marine asylums for the temporary reception 
of Londoners — stands back from the road, and has its 



HALF-REVEALED. 235 

stuccoed proportions somewhat softened by the trees and 
shrubs in the " Enclosure," as the denizens love to call it, a 
small oblong strip of something which ought to be green 
turf, but what, under the influence of promenading and 
croquet-playing, has become brown mud. In the moonlight 
on this lovely night in early autumn, some of the denizens 
yet linger in the Enclosure. Young people mostly, of both 
sexes, who walk in pairs, and speak in very low tones, and 
look at each other with very long immovable glances ; 
young people who cannot imagine why people ever grow old, 
who cannot conceive that there can be any pleasure except 
in that one pastime in which they themselves are then 
employed — who cannot conceive, for instance, what enjoy- 
ment that old gentleman, who has been so long seated in the 
drawing-room balcony of No. 17, can find in life. 

That old gentleman is Lord Sandilands, who, the London 
season over, has come down to St. Leonards for a little sea- 
air, and quiet and change. One reason for his selection of 
St. Leonards is that Miss Grace Lambert and Mrs. Bloxam 
are staying within a few miles' distance, at Hardriggs, Sir 
Giles Belwether's pretty place. Lord Sandilands had been 
invited to Hardriggs, also, but he disliked staying anywhere 
except with very intimate friends ; and, moreover, he had 
come to that time of life when rest was absolutely essential 
to him, and he knew that under Sir Giles Belwether's 
ponderous hospitality he would simply be moving the venue 
of his London life without altering any of its details. 
Moreover, the old gentleman, by coming to St. Leonards, 
was carrying out a kindly scheme long since laid, of giving 
Miles Challoner occasional opportunities of seeing Miss 
Lambert. 

Miles was not invited to stay at Hardriggs ; he did not 
even know Sir Giles Belwether ; but he became Lord 
Sandilands' guest in the lodgings in Bobertson-terrace, and, 
as such, he was taken over by his friend to Hardriggs, 
introduced to the host, and recceived with the greatest hos- 
pitality. Lord Sandilands has this advantage over the 
youthful promenaders in the " Enclosure," that while they 
cannot imagine what he is thinking of, he perfectly well 
divines the subject of their thoughts, and is allowing his own 
ideas to run in another vein of that special subject. He has 
just made Miles confess his love for Grace Lambert, and all 



236 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



the drawbacks and disadvantages of the position are opening 
rapidly before him. 

" I might have expected it," said the old gentleman half- 
aloud ; " I knew it was coming. I saw it growing day by 
day, and yet I never had the pluck to look the affair 
straight in the face — to make up my mind whether I'd tell 
him anything about Gertrude's parentage ; and I don't 
know what to do now. Ah, here he is ! — Well, Miles, had 
your smoke 1 Lovely night, eh 1 " 

" A lovely night, indeed ! No end of people out by the 
sea." 

" You wouldn't mind a turn in that lime-walk at Hard- 
riggs just now, Miles eh ? with — Kate Belwether, or some 
one else ? " 

" Rather the some one else, dear old friend. And so you 
weren't a bit astonished at what I told you to-day 1 " 

" Astonished, my boy ! I astonished 1 Why, where do 
you think my eyes have been 1 I declare you young 
fellows think that to you alone has been confided the appre- 
ciation of beauty and the art of love ! " 

" Any one who imagines that must have ears, and hear 
not, so far as your lordship is concerned," said Miles, laugh- 
ing. "Now, of John Borlase, commonly known as Baron 
Sandilands, the ladies whom he courted and the conquests 
which he made, are they not written in the Chronique Scan- 
daleuse of the period ? " 

" Well, I don't know that. I'm of an old-fashioned 
school, which holds that no gentleman should so carry on his 
amourettes that the world should talk about them. But the 
idea of your thinking that I should be astonished when you 
told me that you were head over ears in love with — with 
Miss Lambert ! Notirri dans le serail fen connais les 
detours, Master Miles." 

" And if not astonished, you were also not annoyed ? " 

" Annoyed ! Not the least bit in the world. I don't 
mean to say that the matter looks to me entirely one of 
plain-sailing, my dear boy ; there are certain difficulties 
which will naturally arise." 

"Do you think that Grace's friends will make any 
obstacle ? By the way, my dear lord, do you know any- 
thing of Miss Lambert's relations 1 I have never heard of 
or seen any connection but Mrs. Bloxam ; but you who are 



HALF-REVEALED. 237 

so intimate with the young lady will probably know all 
about them." 

A half-comic look of embarrassment overshadowed Lord 
Sandilands' face as he heard this inquiry, and he waited for 
a moment before he replied, " Not I, indeed, my dear Miles ; 
Miss Lambert has never spoken to me of her relations — 
indeed, I understood from her that she was an orphan, left 
to Mrs. Bloxam's charge. I shouldn't think you need look 
for any objection to your marriage being made by the lady's 
fiiends." 

" That is one point happily settled ; then the world 1 " 

" The what ? " 

" The opinion of the world." 

" Ah, that's a very different matter ! You're afraid of 
what people will say about your marrying a singer ? " 

" To you, dear old friend, I will confess candidly that I 
am. Not that I have any position, God knows, on the 
strength of which to give myself airs." 

" My dear boy, that's where you mistake. If you had a 
position, you might marry not merely a charming and 
amiable and lovely girl like this, against whom no word 
ought to be uttered, but even a person without the smallest 
rag of reputation ; and the world would say very little about 
it, and would speedily be silenced. Look at — no need, 
however, to quote examples. What I have said is the fact, 
and you know it." 

" I am forced to acknowledge the truth of your remark, 
but while acknowledging it, I shall not permit the fact to 
turn me from my purpose. If Miss Lambert will accept me 
for a husband, I will gladly risk all the tattle of all the old 
cats in Belgravia." 

' ; Your sentiments do you credit, my dear boy," said the 
old nobleman with a smile, "though the juxtaposition of 
'tattle' and 'cats' is scarcely happy. I've noticed that 
when people are in love, the arrangement of their sentences 
is seldom harmonious. I suppose you feel tolerably certain 
of Miss Lambert's answer to your intended proposal. You 
are too much a man of the present day to anticipate any 
doubt in the matter." 

" I should not be worth Miss Lambert's acceptance if I 
had any such vanity ; and I know you're only joking in 
ascribing it to me." 



238 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" I was only joking ; but now seriously, do you fear no 
rivals 1 You see how very much the young lady is sought 
after. Are you certain that her preference is given to you ?" 

"As certain as a man can be who has not 'put it to the 
touch to win or lose it all,' by ascertaining positively." 

" And there is no one you are absolutely jealous of? " 

" .No one. Well, — no, not jealous of, — there is one man 
whom I regard with excessive distrust." 

" You don't mean Lord Ticehurst ? " 

" O, no ! Lord Ticehurst's manners are rough and odd ; 
but he is a gentleman, and, I'm sure, would 'behave as 
such,' in every possible way, to Miss Lambert. Indeed, no 
duchess of his acquaintance can be treated with greater 
respect than she is by him. I would not say as much of the 
other man." 

" Who is he 1 " 

Miles hesitated a moment before he said, "Lord Tice- 
hurst's great friend, Mr. Gilbert Lloyd." 

" Mr. Gilbert Lloyd ! " repeated Lord Sandilands, with a 
low whistle — " that's a very different matter. I don't mind 
telling you, my dear Miles, that I have had an uncomfortable 
impression about that young man ever since the first night 
we met him at Oarabas House. It's singular too ; for I 
know no real harm of the man. His tastes and pursuits are 
not such as interest or occupy me ; though, of course, that is 
the case with scores of persons with whom I am acquainted, 
and towards whom I feel no such dislike. Very odd, isn't 
it?" 

Miles looked hard at his friend to see whether there were 
any latent meaning in the question ; but seeing that Lord 
Sandilands was apparently speaking without any strong 
motive, he said : 

" It is odd. Perhaps," he added, " it is to be accounted 
for by the feeling that this — Mr. Gilbert Lloyd is not a 
gentleman ? " 

" N— no, not that. Though the man, amongst his own 
set, has an air of turfy, horsey life which is hideously repel- 
lent, yet with other people he shows that he knows at least 
the convenances of society, and is not without traces of 
breeding and education. I fancy that in this case I am 
suffering myself to be influenced by my belief in physiognomy. 
The man has a decidedly bad face ; deceit, treachery, and 



HALF-REVEALED. 239 

cruelty are written in the shifty expression of his sunken 
eyes, in his thin tightened lips." 

" And you really believe this % " said Miles, earnestly. 

' ; I do ; most earnestly. Depend upon it, Nature never 
makes a mistake. We may fail to read her properly some- 
times, but she never errs. And in this case her handwriting 
is too plain to admit of any doubt." 

Miles shuddered. The old gentleman noticed it, and laid 
his hand kindly on his friend's knee ; then he said : 

" But, after all, there's no reason for us to fear him. You 
say that he has been somewhat marked in his attention to 
Grace 1 " 

" More than marked. Did you not notice the other night 
at the house of that odd woman, Mrs. Burge — 0, no, I for- 
got, you were not there ; but it was just before we left 
town, and Miss Lambert had been dancing with me, and I 
had only left her for a minute when Lloyd went up and 
spoke to her." 

" Well 1 " 

" Of course I don't know what he said, but they both 
seemed to speak veiy earnestly, and after a very few 
moments he left her abruptly and hurried away." 

" Well, I don't think that proceeding ought to cause you 
much disquietude, Master Miles. In all probability, from 
what you say, Miss Lambert was giving Mr. Lloyd his conge, 
or, at all events, saying something not very pleasant to him. 
Have you ever spoken to her about Lloyd 1 " 

" Once or twice only." 

" And what has she said about him 1 " 

" She seems to have taken your view of the question, my 
dear old friend, for she spoke of him with cold contempt and 
irrepressible dislike, and begged me never to mention his 
name to her again." 

" Really, then it seems to me that you have nothing to 
fear in that quarter. That this Mr. Lloyd is a dangerous 
man I am convinced ; that he would be desperate in any 
matter in which he was deeply interested, I don't doubt ; 
but he may be as desperate as he pleases if Grace dislikes 
him, and loves you. By the way, as that question is still 
a moot point, Master Miles," added the old gentleman with 
a sly look, " the sooner you get it settled the better. We 
shall be driving over to Hardriggs to-morrow, and I should 



240 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

think you might find an opportunity of speaking to the lady 
in private. I know I would at your time of life, and under 
the circumstances. And if you want an elderly gooseberry- 
picker, you may command me." 

But seeing that Miles Challoner's face wore a stern and 
gloomy expression, Lord Sandilands dropped the tone of 
badinage in which he had been speaking, and said with 
great earnestness and softness : 

" There is something strangely wrong with you to-night, 
Miles ; something which keeps crossing your mind and 
influencing your thoughts ; something which I am convinced 
is apart from, and yet somehow connected with, the subject 
we have been discussing. I have no wish to pry into your 
secrets, my dear boy ; no right and no desire to ask for any 
confidence which you may not feel disposed to give. But as, 
since the death of my dear old friend, I have always regarded 
myself as your second fabher, and as I have loved you as 
I would have loved a son, I cannot bear to see you in 
obvious grief and trouble without longing to share it, and to 
advise and help you." 

There was a pathos in the old man's tone, no less than in 
his words, which touched Miles deeply. He took his friend's 
hand and pressed it, and his eyes were filled with tears, and 
his voice trembled as he said : 

" God knows, my dearest friend, how willingly I ac- 
knowledge the truth of all that you have just said, and how 
recognisant I am of all your affection and kindness. I am 
troubled and disturbed, but there is nothing in my trouble 
that need be hid from you ; nothing, indeed, which your 
sympathy and counsel will not lighten and tend to dis- 
perse." 

" That's right," said the old nobleman, brightening up 
again. " Come, what is this trouble ? You're not worried 
for money, Miles 1 " 

" No. I had an odd letter from my lawyers yesterday 
about some mortgage that Sir Thomas Walbrook is in- 
terested in, but I haven't gone into the matter yet. No, 
not money, — I wish it were only that ! " 

'•' What then 1 You've not gone and mixed yourself up 
with any — any connection — you know what I mean — that 
you feel it necessary to break off before you propose to Miss 
Lambert 1 " 



HALF-KEViiALED. 241 

" Not I, dear old friend ; nothing of the sort. Though. 
my trouble is caused by what I think the necessity of giving 
a full explanation on a very difficult and delicate matter, 
before I ask Grace to become my wife." 

" In the name of fortune, what is it, then ? " asked Lord 
Sandilands. 

" Simply this," said Miles, his face resuming its grave 
expression ; " you know that my father's life was over- 
shadowed and his own mental peace destroyed, at a period 
when he might reasonably have looked forward to much 
future enjoyment, by the conduct of my younger brother, 
Geoffrey 1 " 

" Ah ! now I begin to comprehend " 

" Wait, and hear me out. That conduct, the nature of 
which I never could learn, and do not know at this moment, 
blighted my father's life, and changed him from an open- 
hearted, frank, genial man, into a silent and reserved valetu- 
dinarian. For years and years Geoffrey's name was never 
mentioned in our house. I was brought up under strict 
orders never to inquire about him, directly or indirectly ; 
and those orders I obeyed to the letter. Only when my 
father was on his deathbed — you recollect my being tele- 
graphed for from your house, where I was staying 1 I spoke 
of Geoffrey. I asked why he had been sent away, what he 
had done " 

" Your father did not tell you ? " interrupted Lord Sandi- 
lands, eagerly. 

11 He did not, he would not. It was just before he 
expired ; his physical prostration was great ; all he could say 
was that Geoffrey was, and for ever must be, dead to me. 
He implored me, he commanded me with his dying breath, 
if ever I met my brother to shun him, to fly from him, to let 
nothing earthly induce me to know him or acknowledge him." 

" Your poor father was right," said Lord Sandilands ; 
" he could have said nothing else." 

" Do you justify my father's severity i " cried Miles in 
astonishment. ' : Do you hold that he was right in dying in 
anger with one of his own children, and in bequeathing his 
anger to me, the brother of the man whom in his wrath he 
thus harmed 1 " 

" I do ; I do indeed." 

" Do you tell me that any crime not punishable by law 

R 



242 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

could justify such a sentence 1 — a sentence of excommunica- 
tion from his home, from family love, from " 

" Stay, stay, Miles. Tell me, how has this subject 
cropped up just now ? What has brought it into your 
thoughts?" 

" Because, as a man of honour, I feel that I ought to tell 
Miss Lambert something at least — as much as I know — of 
the story before I ask her to be my wife. Because I would 
fain have told her that my father was harsh and severe to a 
degree in his conduct to Geoffrey." 

" That is impossible ; that you can never say. Listen, 
Miles ; I know more of this matter than you suspect. I 
know every detail of it. Your father made me his con- 
fidant, and I know the crime which your brother at- 
tempted." 

" You do ?— the crime ! " 

" The crime. The base, dastardly, hideous crime, which 
rendered it impossible for your father to do otherwise than 
renounce his son, and bid you renounce your brother for 
ever." 

" Ah, my God ! " groaned Miles, burying his head in his 
hands. 

" There is no reason to be so excited, my poor boy," said 
Lord Sandilands, laying his hand gently on him. " You 
need tell Grace nothing of this ; and be sure that this 
wretched Geoffrey will never trouble you again. He is 
most probably dead." 

" I)ead ! " shrieked Miles, raising his livid face and 
staring wildly at his friend. " He lives — here amongst us ! 
I have seen him constantly ; he has recognized me, I know. 
This man of whom we were just speaking, — this man whom 
you call Gilbert Lloyd, — is my younger brother, Geoffrey 
Challoner ! " 



CHAPTEE VIII. 

l'homme propose. 



WHEN a man of Lord Ticehurst's character and dispo- 
sition makes up his mind to achieve a certain result 
— k» the turf slang of the day, " goes in for a big thing " — 



l'homme propose. 243 

be is not easily thwarted, or, at all events, he does not give 
up his idea without having tried to carry it through. The 
indiscreet, illiterate, but by no means bad-hearted, young 
nobleman aforenamed had given himself up, heart and soul, 
to a passion for the opera-singer known to him as Miss Grace 
Lambert, and had gone through a psychological examination 
of his feelings, so far as his brain-power permitted, with the 
view of seeing how the matter lay, and what would be his best 
means for securing his ends. The notion of succeeding dis- 
honourably had never entered his head, or at least had not 
remained there for a moment. In that knowledge of the 
•world which comes, no one knows how, to persons who are 
ignorant of every thing else — that savoir /aire which is learned 
unconsciously, and which can never be systematically 
acquired — Lord Ticehurst was a proficient. He was not, as 
times go, an immoral man, certainly not a wicked one ; but 
he lived in a loose set, and it did not arise from conscien- 
tious scruples that he had not " tried it on " that Grace 
Lambert should become his mistress. Such a result would 
have given him considerable eclat amongst his friends, and 
his religious notions were not sufficiently developed to make 
him shrink from taking such a step. He did not take it 
because he knew it would be useless ; because he knew that 
any such offer would be ignominiously rejected ; that he 
would be spurned from the door, and never permitted again 
to be in the society of the girl whom he really loved. There 
was only one way out of it — to offer her marriage. And 
then the question came, Did he really love her sufficiently 
for that, and was he prepared to stand the consequences 1 

Did he really love her ? He thought he could put in 
an answer to that, by Jove ! Did he really love her ? You 
should ask old Gil about that ! Old Gil knew more of him 
than any one else ; and he could tell you — not that he knew 
what it was, what was the reason of it, don't you know ? — 
that for the whole of last season he had been an altered man. 
He knew that himself — he confessed it ; he felt that he had 
not taken any proper interest in the stable, and that kind 
of thing ; indeed, if he had not had old Gil to look after it, 
the whole thing would have gone to the deuce. He knew 
that well enough, but he could not help it. He had been. 
regular spoons on this girl, and he was, and he should be to 
the end of the chapter, amen. That was all he had got to 

b2 



244 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

say about it. His life had been quite a different thing 
since he had known her. He had left off' swearing, and all 
that cussed low language that he used to delight in once 
upon a time ; and he'd got up early, because he thought 
there was a chance of meeting her walking in the Park (he 
had met her once, and solemnly walked between her and 
Mrs. Bloxam for an hour without saying a word) ; and he 
had cut the ballet and its professors, with whom formerly he 
had very liberal relations. The coryphees and the little 
rats whom he had been in the habit of calling by their 
Christian names, who knew him by the endearing abbrevia- 
tion of " Ticey," and to whom formerly he was delighted to 
stand and talk by the hour, received the coldest of bows 
from their quondam friend, as he stood amongst the wings 
of the opera-scenery on the chance of a word of salutation 
from the prima donna as she hurried from her dressing-room 
on to the stage, But that word and the glance at her were 
enough. " It's no good," he used to say ; " it won't do after 
that. If I go away to supper at old Chalkstone's, and find 
Bella Marshall and Kate Herbert and half a dozen of the 
T. R. D. L. ballet there, 'pon my soul it don't amuse me 
when they put the lobster-claws at the end of their noses ; 
and I think Bagwax and Clownington and old Spiff — well, 
damme, they're old enough to know better, and they might 
think about — well, I don't want to preach about what 
we're all coming to, and what must be precious near for 
them." 

A man of this kind thus hit suffers very severely. The 
novelty of the passion adds considerably to his pangs. The 
fact that he cannot speak out his hopes and wishes irri- 
tates and worries him. To throw the handkerchief is easy 
enough at the first start — becomes easier through frequent 
practice ; but to win the prize is a very different matter. 
With a lady of his own rank it would have been much 
easier wooing ; but with Grace, Lord Ticehurst felt himself 
placed at a double disadvantage. He had to assuage the 
rage of his friends at the honour he was doing her, and he 
had to prove to her that he was doing her no honour at 
all. The former, though a difficult, was the easier task. 
Lord Ticehurst knew his aunt, Lady Carabas, quite well 
enough to be aware that, though she was the first grande 
dame who had introduced Miss Lambsrt into society, and 



l'iiomme propose. 245 

that though up to that minute she had been the young 
lady's most steadfast friend, she would be the very first to 
rail against the mesalliance, and do all she could to cry 
down that reputation which she had so earnestly vaunted. 
Others would follow suit at once, and he and his wife 
would have to run the gauntlet. His wife ! Ah, that waa 
just the point ; he would not care a rap if she were his 
wife, if he had her brains and her beauty to help in winning 
the game for him. But Lord Ticehurst's knowledge of the 
world was too great to permit him to flatter himself thus 
far ; he knew that he had never received any substantial 
acknowledgment from Miss Lambert ; and he recollected, 
with a very unpleasant twinge, what Gilbert Lloyd had 
said about Miles Challoner's attentions in that quarter — 
attentions received almost as favourably as they were 
earnestly proffered, as Lord Ticehurst had had an oppor- 
tunity of witnessing at Mrs. Stapleton Burge's reception. 

Young noblemen of large fortunes are not in the habit 
of fighting with their inclinations and wishes. Lord 
Ticehurst felt that he must do his best to make this girl 
marry him — whether she would or not, he felt was doubtful, 
and acknowledged the feeling to himself with an honest 
frankness which was one of his best characteristics. He 
bore away with him his dull, wearying heartache, his 
" restless, unsatisfied longing," to Goodwood, where it 
cankered the ducal hospitality, and made him think but 
little of the racing-prizes which he carried off. He bore 
it away with him to the hotel at Eastbourne, where, pend- 
ing the Doncaster week, he and his friends had set up their 
Lares and Penates, and were doing their best to gain health 
and strength from the sea-breezes and quiet, and make up 
for the ravages of the London season. 

Except in the desultory manner already narrated, Lord 
Ticehurst had not revealed to his confederate the state of 
his feelings towards Mis3 Lambert. He had said nothing 
positive to him regarding what was now his fixed intention, 
of proposing for that young lady's hand, and it is probable 
he would have been consistently reticent had not chance 
brought the confession about in this way. 

It was a splendid August morning, and the two gentle- 
men were seated in the largest sitting-room of the pretty 
hotel, with its bay window overlooking the pleasant pro- 



24:6 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

menading crowd of sea-side loungers, bathable children, 
bathed young ladies with their limp hair hanging down 
their backs, old gentlemen walking up and down with 
mouths and nostrils wide open to inhale as much ozone a& 
possible during their stay, and the other usual common 
objects of the sea-shore. Breakfast was just over, and 
cigars had already been lighted. The blue vapour came 
curling round the sides of the sporting print in which 
Gilbert Lloyd's head and shoulders were enveloped, and 
mixed with another blue vapour which stole over the more 
massive folds of the Times, with which Lord Ticehurst was 
engaged. 

A shout of " Hallo ! " betraying intense astonishment, 
roused Gilbert from his perusal of the vaticinations of 
" Calchas." " What makes you hallo out like that 1 What 
is it ? " he asked. 

" What is it .! O, nothing particular," replied Lord Tice- 
hurst ; adding immediately, " By Jove, though ! " 

" No, but I say, Etchingham, something must have 
roused you to make you give tongue. What was it, old 
boy 1 No more scratchings for the Leger 1 " 

" No, something quite different to that. Well, look here, 
if you must know ; " and his lordship lazily handed the 
paper to his friend, and pointed to a particular paragraph. 

"Advertisement!" said Lloyd as he took it. "Now 
what the deuce can you find to interest you among the 
advertisements 1 " But the expression of his face changed 
as he saw, in large letters, the name of Miss Grace Lambert ; 
and on further perusal he found that Mr. Boulderson Munns, 
whose noble style he immediately recognised, informed the 
British public that he had made arrangements with this 
distinguished prima donna for a tour during the winter 
months, in the course of which she would visit the prin- 
cipal cities in England, Ireland, and Scotland, accompanied 
by a troupe of distinguished talent, superintended by Mr. 
Munns himself, who would lend all the resources of the 
justly-celebrated band and repertoire of the Grand Scandi- 
navian Opera-house to the success of the design. 

Gilbert Lloyd, who had felt his colour ebb when he first 
saw his wife's name, read through the advertisement care- 
fully, but said nothing as he laid the paper down. 

" Have you read it ? " asked Lord Ticehurst. 



l'hojime propose. 247 

" I have." 

" And what do you think of it 1 " 

" Think of it ! What should I think of it, except that 
it will probably be a profitable speculation for — for Miss 
Lambert, and certainly a profitable one for Munns ? " 

" Well but, I say, look here ! It mustn't come off." 

"What mustn't?" 

" Why, this what's-its-name — tour ! " 

" Then it will be a bad thing for Munns. But, seriously, 
Etchingham, what on earth do you mean % What are you 
talking about % " 

" Well, I mean that — that young lady, Miss Lambert, 
mustn't go flitting about the country." 

" Why not 1 What have you to do with it 1 " 

" Why, haven't I told you — don't you recollect before 
Ascot and all that 1 — only you're so deuced dull, and think 
of nothing but — well, never mind. Don't you recollect my 
saying 1 intended to ask Miss Lambert to be my wife 1 " 
And Lord Ticehurst, whom the avowal and the unusual 
flux of words rendered a bright peony colour, glared at his 
Mentor in nervous trepidation. 

Gilbert looked at him very calmly. The corners of his 
mouth twitched for an instant as he began to speaky but 
he was otherwise perfectly composed as he said, "I had 
forgotten ; you must forgive me ; the stable takes up so 
much of my time that I have scarcely leisure to look after 
your other amusements. 0, you intend to propose for this 
young lady ! Do you think she will accept you % " 

" That's a devilish nice question to ask a fellow, that is. 
'Pon my soul, I don't think there's another fellow in the 
world that would have had the — well, the kindness — to 
ask that. I suppose it will be all right ; if I didn't, I 
shouldn't " 

" Shouldn't ask, eh ? Well, I suppose not, and it was in- 
discreet in me to suggest anything different. What do you 
propose to do now 1 " 

" Well, what do you think 1 Perhaps I'd better go up to 
town — deuced odd town will look at this time of year, 
won't it 1 — and see Miss Lambert, and make it all straight 
with her ; and then go off and see old Munns, and tell him 
he'll have to give up his notion of the what's-its-name — the 
tour. He'll want to be squared, of course, and we must 



248 THE KOCK AHEAD. 

do it for him ; but I shall leave you to arrange that with 
him." 

" Of course ; that will not be a difficult matter." Gilbert 
Lloyd waited a minute before he added, " But there is no 
necessity for you to go to London on this portentous 
matter. Miss Lambert is much nearer to you than you 
imagine." 

" Much nearer ! "What the deuce do you mean ? " asked 
Lord Ticehurst, looking round as if he expected to see 
Gertrude entering the room. 

" Exactly what I say. I had a letter this morning from 
Hanbury ; he's staying at Hardriggs, old Sir Giles Bel- 
wether's place, not a dozen miles from here ; and he men- 
tioned that Miss Lambert was a guest there too. Wait a 
minute ; I'll read you what he says. No, never mind, it's 
only some nonsense about Lady Belwether's insisting on old 
Bel having a Dean to stay in the house at the same time to 
counteract the effect of the stage, and " 

" D — d impertinence ! " muttered Lord Ticehurst. I 
always did hate that Hanbury — sneering beast ! 0, about 
twelve miles from here, eh ? Might drive over to luncheon 1 
What do you say, Gil ? Do us good, eh % " 

" Do you good, very likely, Etchingham ! At all events, 
if you have made up your mind to this course, it's the best 
and the most honourable way to bring it to an issue at once. 
And I'm not sure that this is not an excellent opportunity. 
You will find the lady unfettered by business, free from 
the lot of fribbles who are always butterflying about her in 
town, and have only to make your running. I can't go ; 
I've got letters to write, and things to do, and must stop 
here." 

Within half an hour Lord Ticehurst's phaeton came 
spinning round to the door of the hotel, and Gilbert, 
tepping out on to the balcony, saw him — got up to the 
ghest pitch of sporting neglige — drive off amid the unsup- 
pressed admiration of the bystanders. Then Lloyd walked 
back into the room and flung himself on a sofa, and lit a 
fresh cigar, and as he puffed at it soliloquised, " What was 
that I saw on a seal the other day 1 Quo Fata ducunt. 
What a wonderful thing that they should have led to this ; 
that they should have led me to being the most intimate 
friend of a man who is now gone off to propose to my wife ! 



l'iiomme propose. 24!) 

My wife ! I wonder when I shall make up my mind as to 
what my real feelings are towards her. After years of 
indifference, of absolute forgetfulness, I see her, and fall 
madly in love with her again — so madly that I pursue her, 
plainly seeing it is against her will, and, like an idiot, 
give her the chance of saying that to me which makes me 
hate her worse than ever — worse even than when we parted, 
and I did hate her then. But I've a feeling now which I 
had not during all that long interval of our separation. 
Then I did not care where she was or what she did. Now, 
by the Lord, if I were to think that she cared for any man 
— or not that, I know she does, curse him ! I know she does 
care for that man — I mean, if she were to give any man the 
position that was mine — that was? — that is, when I choose 
to claim it — he and I would have to settle accounts. That 
poor fool has no chance. Gertrude has no ambition — that's 
a fault I always found in her ; if she had had, we might 
have risen together ; but she was nothing when she was not 
sentimentally spoony; and she would throw over my lord, 
who really loves her in a way that I never thought him 
capable of, the title, money, and position, for the beaux yeux 
and the soft speeches of my sweet brother. What will be 
the end of that, I wonder? By heavens, if I saw that 
culminating — if I thought that she was going to claim the 
freedom we agreed upon for the sake of bestowing herself on 
him, I'd stand the whole racket, run the whole risk, declare 
myself and my position openly, and let her do her worst ! " 
He rose from the sofa and walked to the window, where he 
stood looking out for a few moments, then returned to his 
old position. " The worst, eh ? How I hate that cursed 
sea, and the glare of the sun on the cliffs ! It always 
reminds me of that infernal time. Do her worst ! She's 
the most determined woman I ever saw. I shall never 
forget the look of her face that night, nor the tone of her 
voice as she whispered behind her fan. Well, sufficient for 
the day, &c. That's to be met when it comes. It hasn't 
come yet. I may be perfectly certain what reply will be 
C'iven to my dear young friend Etchingham, who has just 
started on his precious fool's-errand ; and as for the other 
man — well, he's not staying at Hardriggs, or Hanbury 
would have mentioned him. There will be this country 
tour to fill up the winter ; and by the time next season 



250 



THE EOCK AHEAD. 



arrives, he may be off it, or she may be off it, or a thousand 
things may have happened, which are now not worth specu- 
lating about, but which will serve my turn as they come." 
And Gilbert Lloyd turned to his writing-desk, and plunged 
into calculations and accounts with perfectly clear brains, 
in the working of which the thoughts of the previous half- 
hour had not the smallest share. 

Meanwhile, Lord Ticehurst sat upright in his mail- 
phaeton, driving the pair of roans which were the cynosure 
of the Park during the season, and the envy of all horsey 
men always, through some of the loveliest scenery in Sussex. 
Not that scenery, except Grieve's or Beverley's, made much 
impression on his lordship. Constant variety of hill and 
dale merely brought out the special qualities and paces of 
the roans ; wooded uplands suggested good cover-shooting ; 
broad expanse of heath looked very like rabbits. To such 
a thorough sportsman thoughts like these occurred involun- 
tarily, but he had plenty beside to fix what he called his 
mind. Though he had made as light as possible to his hench- 
man of the expedition on which he was engaged, and given 
himself the airs of a conquering hero, he was by no means 
so well satisfied of his chances of success, or of his chances 
of happiness, were success finally achieved. His chances of 
success occupied him first. "Well, he did not know — you 
could never tell about women, at least he couldn't, whether 
they meant it or whether they didn't. He didn't know ; 
she was always very friendly, and that kind of thing ; but 
with women that went for nothing. They'd draw you on, 
until you thought nothing could be more straight ; and then 
throw you over and leave you nowhere. N-no ; he couldn't 
recollect anything particular that Miss Lambert had ever 
said to induce him to hope : she'd admired the roans as the 
groom moved them up and down in front of her windows ; 
and she'd said more than once that she was glad some song 
of hers had pleased him, and that was all. Not much, 
indeed ; but then he was an earl ; and the grand undying 
spirit of British flunkeydom had led him to believe, as in- 
deed it leads every person of his degree to believe, that " all 
thoughts, all passions, all delights, whatever stirs this 
mortal frame," are at the command of any one named in 
Debrett, or eulogised by Sir Bernard Burke : " Ticehurst, 
Earl of, Viscount Etchingham, b. 1831, succeeded his father 



l'homme propose. 251 

the 3rd Earl in," &c. &c. What was the use of that, if 
people were not to bow down in the dust before him, and he 
were not to have everything he wished? Heaps of fellows 
had been floating round her all the season, but no such 
large fish as he had risen at the bait ; and though she had 
not particularly distinguished him, still he had only to go 
in and win the prize. What was it that Gilbert Lloyd had 
let drop about some rival in the field 1 O, that man Chal- 
loner ! Yes, he had himself noticed that there had been a 
good deal of attention paid in that quarter, and by no 
means unwillingly received. Queer customer that old Gil ! 
sees everything, by Jove ! fancy his spotting that ! Good- 
looking chap, Challoner, and quite enough to say for himself ; 
but, Lord, when it came to the choice between him and the 
Earl of Ticehurst ! 

Lord Ticehurst smiled quite pleasantly to himself as this 
alternative rose in his mind, and flicked his whip in the air 
over the heads of the roans, causing that spirited pair to 
plunge in a manner which made the groom (a middle-aged, 
sober man, with a regard for his neck, and a horror of his 
master's wild driving) look over the head of the phaeton in 
fear and trembling. As the horses quieted down and 
settled into their paces, Lord Ticehurst's spirits sunk simul- 
taneously. Suppose it were all right with the lady, what 
about the rest of the people 1 Not his following — not Bar- 
dolph, Nym, and Pistol, and the rest of the crew. Lord 
Ticehurst might not be a clever man, but he had sufficiently 
" reckoned up " his clienteel, and he knew, whatever they 
might think, none of their tongues would wag. But the 
outsiders — the "society" people — what would they say to 
his bringing a lady from the boards of the opera to sit at 
the head of his table at home, and demand all the respect 
due to her rank abroad ? They wouldn't like it ; he knew 
that fast enough. O yes, of course they'd say that he was 
not the first who'd done it, and it had always been a great 
success hitherto and so on ; but still he had to look to 
his own position and hers, and — by Jove, Lady Carabas ! 
she'd make it pleasant for them, and no mistake ! Her 
ladyship liked her protegee, liked to flaunt her in the eyes 
of rival lion-hunters, gloried in the success she achieved, 
and the excitement she created ; but her nephew knew well 
enough what her feelings would be if she had to acknow- 



252 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

ledge the brilliant prima donna of the opera-house as a 
relation ; if she had to endure the congratulations of her 
female friends on the distinguished addition to the family- 
circle which her kindness and tact had brought about. 

What the deuce did it matter to him ! The roans were 
then pulling well and steadily together, and the phaeton 
bowled merrily along the level turnpike- road. What the 
deuce did it matter to him ! Was not he the Earl of Tice- 
hurst, and was he not to be his own master ? and was not 
he old enough, and rich enough, and big swell enough to do 
what he pleased, and to take a sight at the world's odd 
looks, and pooh-pooh the world's odd remarks 1 He was, 
and he intended to prove it ; and after all, he would like 
to see one of them to compare with his pretty Grace. Why, 
who had they made a fuss about last season 1 Alice Far- 
qubar, an insipid-looking, boiled-veal kind of girl, with her 
pale freckled face and her red hair ; and Constance Brand, 
with her big black eyebrows, and. her flashing eyes, and her 
hook nose — talk about tragedy queens, well, there was Con- 
stance Brand cut out for that to a T ! Everybody said what 
a charming thing it was when Alice Farquhar married old 
Haremarch, and how ever since he had been clothed and in 
his right mind ; and as for Constance Brand — well, every- 
one knew she had saved the family credit by marrying 
young Klootz, who now called himself Cloote, and who only 
suffered himself to be reminded by his income that he was 
lineally descended from old Jacob Klootz, the banker and 
money-lender of Erankfurt-am-Main. Neither of these 
girls was to be compared to Miss Lambert, and he was de- 
termined that — Lord Ticehurst's spirits sunk again just at 
this juncture, as the gates of the Hardriggs avenue came 
within sight. 

The Belwethers were very pleasant old-fashioned people, 
who lived the same life year after year without ever getting 
tired of it. They were at Hardriggs, their very pleasant ances- 
tral seat, from August until the end of March, and at their 
very pleasant town-house in Brook Street from April till 
the end of July. When in the country, old Sir Giles shot, 
fished, and attended the Quarter-sessions, the Conservative 
demonstrations, and the Volunteer reviews of his county. 
When in town, he slept a good deal at the Carlton, and 
rode a clever cob about the Park between twelve and two, 



to 



L HOMME PROPOSE. Zl)d< 

distinguished for the bottle-green cutaway coat with velvet 
collar, and the high muslin checked cravat of sixty years 
ago. Lady Belwether's character was well summed up in 
the phrase "kind old goose," which a particular friend 
applied to her. A madness for music was the only marked, 
feature of her disposition ; at home she visited all the old 
women, and helped the curate, and gave largely to the 
Flannel Cluh, and looked after the schools and worried the 
doctor, and played the harmonium in the village church on 
Sunday ; and in town, what with the opera three nights i\ 
week, and the Monday Popular Concerts, and the matinees 
and soirees musicales of distinguished creatures, with a dash 
of Exeter Hall oratorio, and a soupgon of Philharmonic, the 
old lady's life was one whirl of delight. Lady Bel wether 
had fallen in love with Gertrude at first sight. She was by 
no means a gushing old lady, nor, though so devoted to 
music, had she ever made the acquaintance of any profes- 
sional. Hitherto she had always stood on her dignity when 
such a proposition had been made to her. She had no 
doubt, she used to say, that the artists in question were 
pleasant people in their way, but that was not her way.. 
However, the first glance at Miss Lambert made the old 
lady wild to know her : there never was such a sweet face 
— so interesting, so classical — yes, the old lady might say, 
so holy j " and her voice, my dear, it gives me the notion 
of an angel singing." So, worthy old Lady Belwether 
having ascertained that Miss Lambert was perfectly " cor- 
rect" and ladylike, procured an introduction to her, and 
commenced heaping upon her a series of kindnesses which 
culminated in the invitation to Hardriggs. This invitation 
was accepted principally by the advice of Lord Sandilands, 
who had known the Belwethers all his life, and who felt 
that Gertrude could not enjoy the quiet and fresh air requi- 
site after her London season with more thoroughly respect- 
able people. 

It was after the invitation had been given and accepted 
that Lady Belwether began to feel a little nervous and 
uncomfortable about what she had done. For in the pride 
of her heart and the warmth of her admiration for Gertrude, 
she told everybody that dear Miss Lambert was coming to 
them at Hardriggs in the autumn. Among others she 
mentioned the fact to Miss Belwether, Sir Giles's sister, a 



254 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



dreadful old woman, who lived in a boarding-house at 
Brighton, in order to be in the closest proximity to her 
"pastor," the Reverend Mr. Tophet, and who uttered a 
yelp of horror at the announcement. " I have said nothing, 
Maria," said this horrible old person, " to your gaddings-. 
about and the frivolous style of your existence, but I mnst 
lift up my voice when you tell me you are about to receive 
a stage-player as your guest." " Stage-player " is an awk- 
ward word to be thrown at the head of a leader of county 
society, and it hit home, and rather staggered dear old Lady 
Belwether ; not that the gallant old lady for an instant 
entertained the notion of giving up her intended guest, 
or suffered herself to appear the least abashed in the eyes 
of her antagonist. " It's a mere matter of taste, my dear 
Martha," she replied ; " for my own part, I would sooner 
associate with a lady who, though a singer, is undoubtedly 
a lady, than with a man who calls himself a minister, who 
was a shoemaker, and who always must be a vulgar 
boor." Having fired which raking shot at the Reverend 
Tophet, the old lady sailed away and closed the conver- 
sation. 

But she felt that it would be a great advantage if she 
could have some one staying in the house at the same time 
with Miss Lambert, whose presence would prove an effec- 
tual check on the ridiculous gossip likely to be prevalent in 
the county. The lay element would be excellently repre- 
sented in the respectably dull and decorous people who were 
coming ; but there was wanting an infusion of the clerical 
element, which could best be met by inviting Sir Giles's old 
friend the Dean of Burwash. Henry Asprey, Dean of 
Burwash, had been known as " Felix " Asprey at school and 
college, from his uninterrupted run of luck. The son of a 
poor solicitor, a good-looking idle lad, of capital manners 
and address, but with very little real talent, he had won an 
exhibition from his school, a scholarship, a fellowship, and 
a double-second at the "University, no one knew how. He 
had taken orders, and travelled as tutor to the then 
Premier's son through Egypt and the Holy Land ; on his 
return had published a little book of very weak poems, 
under the title Palm-leaves and Dates, which, with his usual 
luck, happened to hit the very bad taste of the day and went 
through several editions. His friend the Premier gave him a 



l'iiomme rRorosE. 255 

good living, and he had scarcely been inductedinto it when 
he won the heart of a very rich widow, whom he married, and 
whom with his usual luck, within the course of four years he 
buried, inheriting her fortune of three thousand a-year. It 
•was to console him in his deep affliction that his friend the 
Premier, just then quitting office for the third and last time, 
bestowed upon him the Deanery of Burwash. He was now 
some fifty years old, tall, thin, and eminently aristocratic- 
looking ; had a long transparent hand, which was generally 
clasping his chin, and a soft persuasive voice. He liked 
music and poetry, and good dinners ; was found at private 
views of picture-exhibitions ; belonged to the Athenaeum 
Club ; and liked to be seen there conversing with profes- 
sional literary men. People said he would be a Bishop 
some day, and he thought so himself — he did not see why 
not ; he would have looked well in his robes, spoken well 
in the House of Lords, and never committed himself by the 
utterance of any extreme opinion. That was a thing he 
had avoided all his life, and to it much of the secret of his 
success might be ascribed. His sermons were eloquent — 
Ms friends said " sound," his enemies " empty " ; he de- 
plored the division in the Church with sympathetic face 
and elegant gesture ; but he never gave adhesion to either 
side, and showed more skill in parrying home-questions than 
in any other action of his life. 

Such was Dean Asprey, to whom Lady Belwether wrote 
an invitation to Hardriggs, telling him frankly that Miss 
Grace Lambert would be one of the guests, and asking if he 
had any objection to meet her. The Dean's reply, written 
in the neatest hand on the thickest cream-laid note-paper, 
arrived by return of post. He accepted the invitation as 
heartily as it was given ("Genial creature !" said dear old 
Lady Belwether) ; he fully appreciated dear Lady Belwether's 
frankness about her guest, for he was aware — how could he 
fail to be 1 — of the censoriousness of the world towards 
persons of his calling. He had, however, made it his rule 
through life, and he intended to pursue the same course 
until the end, to shape his conduct according to the dictates 
of that still small voice of his conscience rather than at the 
bidding of the world. (" The dear ! " said Lady Belwether.) 
He should therefore have the greatest pleasure in making 
the acquaintance of Miss Grace Lambert, of whom he had 



256 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

already heard the most favourable accounts, not merely as 
regarded her great genius, but her exemplary conduct. And 
he was, with kindest regards to Giles, his dear Lady Bel- 
wether's most sincere friend, Henry Asprey. "A Christian 
gentleman," said the old lady, with tears of delight standing 
in her eyes as she finished the letter ; "and Martha to talk 
of her stage-players and Tophets indeed, when a man like 
that does not mind !" 

The Belwethers were rather astonished when, just after 
the party had sat down to luncheon, they heard Lord Tice- 
hurst announced. For though there was a certain similarity 
of sporting tastes between him and Sir Giles, the disparity 
of age caused them to move in widely different sets ; while 
Lady Belwether knew his lordship as the nephew and one 
of the principal attendants on, and abettors of, Lady Carabas, 
whom the old lady held in great aversion. " One of the 
new style of ladies, my dear," she used to say, with a sniff 
of disdain ; " finds women's society too dull for her, must 
live amongst men, talks slang, and I dare say smokes, if one 
only knew." However, they both received the young noble- 
man with considerable empressement ; and Lord Ticehurst, 
on taking his seat at the luncheon-table, found that he 
knew most of the assembled party. The Dean was almost 
the only one with whom he had not a previous acquaintance ; 
and Lord Ticehurst had scarcely whispered to Lady Belwether 
a request to know who was the clerical party on his left, 
when the Dean turned round and introduced himself as an 
old friend of the late Lord Ticehurst's. " I used to meet 
your father at Lady Walsingham's receptions when Lord 
Walsingham was Premier, and he allowed me to call him 
my very good friend. We had certain tastes in common 
which bound us together — geology and mineralogy, for in- 
stance. You are not a geologist, I believe, my lord ? " 

" Well, no," said Lord Ticehurst, frankly ; " that ain't 
my line." 

" N-no," said the Dean. " Well, we all have our different 
tastes — tot homines, quot sententice. Your father was a man 
who was passionately fond of science ; indeed, I often used 
to wonder how a man absorbed as he was in what generally 
proves to others the all-engrossing study of politics could 
find time for the discussion of scientific propositions, and for 
the attendance at the lectures of the Royal Institution. 



L HOMME 1'ROrOSE. J.) I 

But your father was a man of no ordinary calibre ; he 
was " 

"O yrs, he was a great gun at science and electricity, and 
all that kind of thing ; at least so I've been told. Excuse 
me for half a minute ; I want to get some of that ham I see 
on the sideboard." And Lord Ticehurst rose from the seat, 
to which he did not return after he had helped himself, 
preferring a vacant place at the other end of the table, by 
the side of Sir Giles Belwether, whose conversation about 
hunting and racing proved far more entertaining to his 
lordship. Moreover, from his new position be could keep a 
better view of Miss Lambert, who did not, he was pleased 
to observe, seem particularly gratified or amused at the 
rapid fire of conversation kept up by the young men on 
either side of her. 

When luncheon was over, and the party rose and dis- 
persed, Lord Ticehurst was seized upon by Sir Giles, who 
took him to the stables, expatiating lengthily and wearily 
on the merits of his cattle ; and it was not until late in the 
afternoon that the visitor could make his escape from his 
host. He thought that he would have had his journey for 
nothing, seeing no chance of getting a private interview 
with Miss Lambert, when on his return to the house to see 
if he could find Lady Belwether, to whom he intended 
making his adieux, he heard the sound of a piano, and 
recognized the prelude of a favourite ballad of Gertrude's. 
Before the song could begin, Lord Ticehurst had entered 
the room, and found Miss Lambert, as he expected, alone at 
the piano. Gertrude looked round at the opening of the 
door, and when she saw who it was, half rose from her seat. 

" Pray don't move, Miss Lambert," said Lord Ticehurst, 
approaching her ; " pray don't let me disturb you." 

" You don't disturb me in the least, Lord Ticehurst," said 
Gertrude, sitting down again. " I was merely amusing 
nivself. I had not even the business excuse of beins; ' at 
practice.' " 

" Don't let me interfere, then. Amuse yourself and me 
at the same time. Do now, it will be a charity ; 'pon my 
word it will." 

'■• Xo, no, no ; I'm not so cruel as that. I know the 
terrible infliction music is to you in London. I've watched 
too often the martyr-like manner in which you've suffered 

s 



258 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

under long classical pieces, and the self-denying way in which 
you have applauded at the end of them, without deliberately 
exposing you to more torture in the country." 

" Assure you you're wrong, Miss Lambert ; but I'm too 
happy to think you've done me the honour to watch me at 
all, to go into the question. No, please don't go. If you 
won't sing to me, may I speak to you 1 " 

Gertrude, who had again half-risen, turned round to him 
with a look of wonder in her eyes. " May you speak to me, 
Lord Ticehurst 1 Why, of course ! " 

The answer was so manifestly simple and genuine, that it 
quite took Lord Ticehurst aback, and there was a moment's 
pause before he said, " Thanks, yes — you're very good. I 
wanted to speak to you — wanted to say something rather 
particular to you, in point of fact." 

The hesitation in his manner, an odd conscious look in 
his face, had revealed the object of his visit. Gertrude 
knew what he was about to say, but she remained perfectly 
calm and unembarrassed, merely saying, 

" Pray speak, Lord Ticehurst ; I am quite at your 
service." 

"Thanks very much — kind of you to say so, I'm sure. 
Fact of the matter is, Miss Lambert, ever since I've had 
the pleasure of knowing you I've been completely stumped, 
don't you know ? — bowled over, and that kind of thing. I 
suppose you've noticed it ; fellows at the club chaff most 
awfully, you know, and I can't stand it any longer ; and, in 
short, I've come to ask you if — if you'll marry me, and that 
kind of thing." 

"You do me great honour, Lord Ticehurst," commenced 
Gertrude ; " very great honour " 

" 0," interrupted his lordship, " don't you think about 
that ; that's what they said at White's, but I said that was 

all d d stuff — I beg your pardon, Miss Lambert ; all 

nonsense I mean — about honour, and all that. Why," he 
went on to say, having worked himself up into a state of 
excitement, " of course I know I'm an earl, and that kind 
of thing. I can't help knowing about my — my station in 
life, and you'd think me a great ass if I pretended I didn't ; 
but when you're my wife, you'll be — I mean to say you'll 
grace it and adorn it — and — and there's not one in the 



DIEU DISPOSE. 259 

whole list fit to be named along with you, or to hold a 
candle to you." 

" I caunot thank you sufficiently for this expression of 
kind feeling towards me, Lord Ticehurst," said Gertrude. 
'• ]STo, hear me for one minute ; " as he endeavoured again 
to interrupt her. " Ever since you have known me you 
have treated me with the utmost courtesy and kindness, 
and you have now done me the greatest possible honour. 
You may judge, then, how painful it is to me" — Lord 
Ticehurst's jaw and hat here dropped simultaneously — 
'■ how painful it is to me to be compelled to decline that 
honour." 

« To— to decline it ? " 

" To decline it." 

« To say no ! " 

'■' To say no." 

" Then you refuse me ! Case of chalks, by Jove ! Miss 
Lambert, I — I'm sorry I've troubled you," said Lord Tice- 
hurst, picking up his hat and making for the door. " I 
hope you won't think anything of it, I — good-morning ! — 
Damme if I know whether I'm on my head or on my heels," 
he added when he got outside, and was alone. 

Lord Ticehurst was so completely bouleverse that he 
scarcely knew how he got to his phaeton, or how he tooled 
the roans, who were additionally frisky after the Belwether 
oats, down the avenue. He knew nothing until he got to 
the gate, on the other side of which was an open fly. He 
looked vacantly at its occupants, but started as lie recognized 
Lord Sandilands and Miles Challoner. 

"0, that's it, is it?" said his lordship to himself. 
" Damme, old Gil was right again ! " 



CHAPTER IX. 

DIEU DISPOSE. 

THE effect of Miles Challoner's startling communication 
upon Lord Sandilands was very great ; but the long- 
cultivated habit of self-command enabled him to conceal its 

s2 



» 



260 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

extent and somewhat of its nature from his younger friend. 
It was fortunate that Miles was just then so much en- 
grossed with his love, so full of the hope of the success of 
his suit, so relieved and encouraged by discovering that 
Lord Sandilands did not attempt to dissuade him from a 
project in which he had felt very doubtful whether he should 
have the support of a man of the world — and though nothing 
would have induced him to abandon that project, Lord 
Sandilands' acquiescence made a wonderful difference to him 
in the present, and would, he felt, be of weighty importance 
in the future, — that he was not keenly observant of the old 
nobleman. As soon as it was possible, Lord Sandilands got 
rid of Miles, but not until he had received from the young 
man a grateful acknowledgment of his kindness, and until 
they had finally agreed on the expedition to Hardriggs for 
the following day. 

When he was quite alone, the familiar friend of Miles 
Challoner's father gave way to the feelings with which this 
revelation had filled him. This, then, was the explanation 
of the instinctive aversion he had felt towards Gilbert Lloyd 
—fate had brought him in contact with the man whose story 
he alone of living men knew, and under circumstances which 
might have terrible import. The one hope of his dead 
friend — that the brothers might never meet — had been 
defeated ; the fear which had troubled him in his later 
days had been fulfilled. If Miles Challoner's impression 
concerning this man should be correct — if indeed he was or 
intended to become a suitor to Gertrude, a fresh complication 
of an extremely dangerous nature — knowing what he knew, 
he could well appreciate that danger might arise. The 
skeleton was wearing flesh again, and stalking very close by 
the old man now. Hitherto only the strong sympathy 
which had united him with Miles Challoner and his father 
— his friendship for the latter had been one of the strongest 
and deepest feelings of a life which had, on the whole, been 
superficial — made the fate of the outcast son and brother a 
subject of any interest to Lord Sandilands. He might have 
turned up at any time, and this unfortunate meeting and 
recognition between the brothers have taken place, and 
beyond the unpleasantness of the occurrence, and the 
necessity he should have recognized for impressing upon 
Miles as stringently as possible the importance of observing 



DIKU DISPOSE. 261 

his father's prohibition, he would not have felt himself 
pei'sonally concerned. But Gertrude ! the girl whom he 
had come to love with such true fatherly feeling and solici- 
tude — the girl who had brought into his superficial life such 
mingled feelings of pain and pleasure — what if she were 
:ibout to be involved in this family mystery and misery 1 
Very seldom in the course of his existence had Lord Sandi- 
lauds experienced such acute pain, such a sensation of help- 
less terror, as this supposition inspired. Supposing that 
Miles Challoner was right in the dread which Gilbert 
Lloyd's manner with regard to Gertrude had awakened in 
him, — and the eyes of a lover not sure of his own position, 
and anxiously on the look-out for possible rivals, were likely 
to be more acute and more accurate than those of an old 
gentleman much out of practice in the subtleties of the 
tender passion, and without the spur to his perceptions of 
suspicion, — supposing he was really in love with Gertrude, 
and that by any horrible chance Gertrude should prefer him 
to Miles ! Very unpleasant physical symptoms of dis- 
turbance manifested themselves after Lord Sandilands had 
fully taken this terrible hypothesis into consideration, and 
for a time the old gentleman felt that whether it was gout 
or apoplexy which was about to claim him for its own was a 
mere question of detail. He had lived so long without 
requiring to test the strength of his nerves, without having 
any very strong or urgent demand made upon him for the 
exercise of his feelings, that anything of the kind now 
decidedly disagreed with him, and he went to bed in a 
rueful state of mind, and a shaky condition of body. The 
night brought him calmness and counsel, and the symptoms 
of illness passed off sufficiently for him to resolve on keeping 
the engagement he had made with Miles for the following 
day. " The sooner his mind is at ease, the sooner will mine 
be, on his account and my own." Thus ran Lord Sandi- 
lands' thoughts as he lay awake, listening against his will to 
the splash of the sea, and inclined to blame its monotonous 
murmur for the nervousness which had him in its grip. " I 
suppose it's not the right thing for me to help Miles to 
marry Gertrude — my old friend would not have liked the 
notion of his son and heir's marrying my natural daughter ; 
1 nit what can I do ? The young fellow is not like other men 
of his age and position ; in fact, he isn't, strictly speaking, I 



262 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



suppose, a ' young ' fellow at all. If he were, and resembled 
the yoimg men of the day a little more, I fancy he never 
would have thought of marrying her. And then there's an 
awful blot upon the Challoners, too — and she is such a 
charming girl, no tongue has ever dared to wag against her. 
Suppose I did not encourage it, that I set myself against it, 
what could I do 1 I have literally no right in Miles's case, 
and none that I can acknowledge in Gertrude's, and I should 
only make them both dislike me, without preventing the 
marriage in the least. I wish — because of what poor old 
Mark would have thought — that they had never met ; but 
I can't go beyond that — no, I can't. But if she cares for 
that wretch, good heavens ! what shall I do ? " The old 
man put his shrunken hands up to his bald temples, and 
twisted his head about on his pillow, and groaned in his 
solitude and perplexity. " Must I threaten him with 
exposure, and so drive him out of the country ? or must I 
tell her the truth about herself, and ask her to believe, on 
the faith of my unexplained assertion, that the man is one 
whom she must never think of marrying 1 " 

The position was one of indisputable difficulty ; the 
" pleasant vice " — that long-ago story of a dead woman, 
deceived indeed, but with no extraordinary cruelty, a story 
which had not troubled Lord Sandilands' conscience very 
much — had manufactured itself finally into a whip of stout 
dimensions and stinging quality, and he was getting a very 
sufficient taste of it just now. 

Miles must try his luck. That was the only conclusion 
which could be immediately reached. If he could sleep a 
little, he might feel all right in the morning, and be able to 
accompany him to Hardriggs. If he were not well enough. 
Miles must go all the same. If the young man should feel 
surprise and curiosity at finding his old friend so impatient, 
it could not be helped ; it must pass as a vagary of an old 
man's. But Miles would not remark anything ; the vagary 
was sufficiently cognate to his own humour and his own 
purposes to pass unnoticed. 

When Lord Sandilands and Miles Challoner arrived at 
Hardriggs on the following day, a close observer would have 
discerned that they were both under a strong impression of 
some kind. Lord Sandilands was not feeling well by any 
means, but he had assured Miles the drive would do him 



DIEU DISPOSE. 263 

good, and he bad found his indisposition so fai 1 useful, that 
it explained and excused his being very silent on the way. 
Neither was Miles much inclined to talk. He was of an 
earnest nature, never at any time voluble, and when under 
the influence of strong feeling silence was congenial to him. 
He well understood that the revelation he had made to 
Lord Saudilauds on the preceding day had produced a 
startling and disagreeable effect ; and having perceived 
plainly, beyond the possibility of doubt, that the secret 
which he so earnestly desired to know was in Lord San- 
dilands' possession, and was of a darker and direr nature 
than he had ever guessed at, but was, at the same time, 
quite as securely beyond his reach as ever, he made up his 
mind to let the subject drop. Unless this man had cut him 
out, or was likely to cut him out with Grace Lambert, he 
had no power to harm him. The truth was, Miles Challoner 
was very sincerely and heartily in love, and he had as little 
power as inclination to occupy his thoughts for long at a 
time with anyone but Grace, with any speculation but his 
chance of success with her. Luckily, Sir Giles and Lady 
Belwether were the least observant of human beings. Sir 
Giles was stupid to an extent which is not to be realised 
except by those who understand the bucolic gentry of our 
favoured land, and Lady Belwether was — though superior, 
as we have seen, to her bai'onet in intelligence, and dis- 
tinguished by a taste for music — very short-sighted. Close 
observers were therefore not " on hand," when Lord Sandi- 
lamls and Miles arrived at Hardriggs. Sir Giles was con- 
templating the turnips at a distant point of his "pretty 
little place ; " Miss Lambert had gone out into the garden, 
or the lime-walk, the servants said, some time before ; 
and Lady Belwether and Mrs. Bloxam were in the morning- 
room. 

Lord Sandilands did not lose much time in arranging the 
situation as he wished it to be arranged, so far as Miles was 
concerned — his consummate ease of manner, which Miles 
admired to the point of envy, rendered any little dispo- 
sition of affairs of that kind a very simple proceeding to 
him. Miles was despatched in search of Sir Giles, Mrs. 
Bloxam was begged on no account to interfere with Miss 
Lambert's saunter in the garden — they might join her 
presently, perhaps — and Lady Belwether was engaged in a 



I6i 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



discussion upon the comparative merits of " our " native 
composers, within a space of time whose brevity would have 
been surprising to any one unacquainted with the rapid 
action of a fixed purpose combined with good manners. 
Mrs. Bloxam had directed one searching glance at Lord 
Sandilands on his entrance, and, as she withdrew her eyes, 
she said to herself, " Something has happened. He wants 
to speak to rue ; but I had rather he did not, so he sha'n't." 
And strange to say, though he made a protracted visit to 
Hardriggs that day, Lord Sandilands did not succeed in 
getting an opportunity of speaking a word to Mrs. Bloxam. 
This annoyed him a good deal. " Confound the woman ! " 
he said to himself ; "either Mrs. Bloxam is too stupid to 
see that I want to speak to her, or Lady Belwether is too 
clever to leave off talking ! " In his capacity of gooseberry- 
picker, Lord Sandilands was led on this occasion into any- 
thing but pleasant pastures. 

The shortest way to the turnips, just then occupying the 
mind and demanding the presence of Sir Giles Belwether, 
fortunately lay through the garden, otherwise Miles 
■Challoner might not have profited so readily and unsus- 
pected by the strategy of his clever old friend. Through a 
side-gate of the garden the lime-walk was to be gained, and 
as Miles closed that gate behind him he caught sight of 
Grace Lambert. She was walking slowly along in the 
shadow of the ti-ees, her head bent down in a thoughtful 
attitude. Miles went quickly towards her, and she looked 
up and recognised him with a slight start and a vivid blush ; 
in fact, with the kind of recognition which takes place 
when the person who intrudes upon a reverie happens 
to be its subject. Gertrude had been thinking of Miles 
— she thought of him very often now ; and the interview 
which had taken place between herself and Lord Ticehurst 
had made her think of him more seriously than ever. She 
loved him. She did not deny the truth, or palter with it, 
or fail to recognise its consequences. She had mistaken 
pleased and excited fancy and nattered vanity for love once, 
but this was nothing of the kind. She knew this was true 
love, because she thought of him, not of herself; because 
she did not hope, but feared he loved her. How would 
■she have listened to such an avowal from Milcs's lips as 
that which, made by Lord Ticehurst, had produced mere 



DIEU DISPOSE. -0~> 

contempt, and a desire to get rid of it and him as quickly 
as possible 1 Gertrude had accepted her position in such 
perfect good faith, that its difficulties never presented them- 
selves in a practical form at all ; and she pondered this 
matter now in her heart, as if she were really the free un- 
married girl she seemed to the world. If he should come 
to her and tell her a love-tale, what should she say to him 1 
She had asked herself the question many times and had 
not found the answer, when, raising her eyes at the sound 
of steps, she met those of Miles Challoner, and saw in them 
what he had come to say. 

There was manifest embarrassment on both sides, and 
each was distinctly conscious of its cause. Why could they 
not meet to-day as they had met so often before i Why 
were the ordinary commonplaces so hard to think of and 
so incoherently said 1 Gertrude was the first to recover her 
composure. She asked Miles if Lord Sandilands had come 
with him ; and on his saying he had, and was then in the 
house, she turned in that direction, and said something 
about going in to see him. But Miles checked her steps 
by standing still. 

" Don't go into the house," he said ; "he does not expect 
you. Let us walk this way ; let me speak to you." She 
glanced at him, and silently complied. She knew it all 
now, and she began to feel what it was that she must say, 
and what it would cost her to say it. She felt his eyes 
upon her, and the delicate colour faded away from her 
face. 

Neither she nor Miles Challoner could have told after- 
wards, or even exactly recalled in their thoughts, the word 
then spoken between them. He told her how he had loved 
her from the first — he who had never loved before — and 
how fear and hope had alternated in his heart until now, 
when hope was the stronger, and he had determined to tell 
her how all his happiness, all his life, was in her hands. 
He spoke with the frank manliness of his nature, and 
Gertrude's heart thrilled as she listened to him with intense 
pain, with keen delight. At least he loved her well and 
worthily ; nothing could deprive her of that exquisite know- 
]' j dge. She would, she must, put away the wine of life 
oiUred to her parched lips, but she knew its sweetness, 
had seen the splendour and the sparkle of it. 



s 



266 



THE EOCK AHEAD. 



A thousand thoughts, innumerable emotions, crowded 
upon her, as she listened to the words of Miles ; but 
when he prayed her to speak and let him know his fate, 
prayed her with eagerness and passion, but with hope that 
was almost confidence, then she put them all down with 
her strong will, and addressed herself to her task. She 
drew the hand which he had taken away from his hold, and 
told him in one short sentence that she could not give him 
the answer he desired. 

" You cannot, Grace 1 You refuse me ! " he said hoarsely. 
" You tell me, then, that I have deceived myself? " 

" No," she said, " I do not. Let us sit here awhile " — 
she seated herself on a bench under a lime-tree as she 
spoke — " and let me speak frankly and freely to you, as you 
deserve." 

Miles obeyed her with bewilderment. What was she 
going to say 1 She would not marry him, and yet he had 
not deceived himself ! She was deadly pale, and he might 
have heard the beating of her heart ; but she was quite 
firm, and she turned her steady eyes upon him un- 
falteringly. 

" There is only one thing you can say to me," he said, " if 
you persevere in forbidding me to hope — that is, to send me 
out of your sight for ever." 

" Perhaps," was her reply ; " but listen. I have said you 
don't deceive yourself, and I mean it. I know you love 
me ; I know what perfect sincerity there is in you — hush I 
let me speak — and I — I do love you — you not have mis- 
taken me, I have not misled you." 

" Then what does anything else matter 1 " said Miles, and 
he caught her hands and kissed them, unresisted, unre- 
buked. " With that assurance, Grace, surely you will not 
refuse me ? " 

" I must," she answered. " Have patience with me ; I 
will tell you why. It is for your own sake." 

" My own sake ! " he exclaimed passionately ; " you 
deprive me of all hope and happiness for my own sake ! I 
shall need patience indeed to understand that." 

" It is true, nevertheless. I could not marry you, Miles 
Challoner, without doing you a great injury ; and I love 
you too well, much more and better than myself, to do that. 
Take that assurance, and believe that nothing can shake my 



DIEU DISPOSE. 2G7 

determination. My fate is decided, my way of life is quite 
fixed. I shall never be your wife — never, never, never ! " 
— his face was hidden in his hands, he did not see the suf- 
fering which broke all control and showed itself plainly in 
her every feature — "but I shall never love you less,or anyone 
but you.'' The low distinct tones of her voice thrilled him 
with a horrid sense of hopelessness. She spoke as one who 
had taken an irrevocable resolution. 

" "What do you mean ? " he said. " You must tell me 
more than this. What do you mean by doing me an injury ? 
I protest I have not the faintest notion of your meaning. 

It cannot be " He hesitated, and she took up his 

words. 

" Because you are a gentleman of old name and a respon- 
sible position in society, and I am a singer, an actress, a 
woman with no name and no station, you would say. Yes,, 
it is precisely for this cause, which you think impossible. 
I know you don't regard any of these things, but the world 
does ; and the man I love shall never be censured by the 
world for me." 

How well it was, she thought, how fortunate, that such a 
real genuine difficulty did exist ; that she could give some 
explanation which he might be induced to receive. 

" Then you would make me wretched for the sake of the 
world, even if what you say of my position and your own 
were true 1 And it is not. Is your genius nothing? Is 
your fame nothing 1 I speak now as reasonably as yourself; 
not as a man who holds you peerless, far removed above 
all the world, but as one discussing a question open to argu- 
ment. What am I in comparison to the men who would 
be proud to offer you rank and wealth? What have I to 
give you that others could not give a thousandfold 1 " 

" Yon give me all I value, all I care for," she said ; " but 
I must not take it. You must not, you shall not, deceive 
yourself. My genius, as you call it, my fame, are real 
things in their way and in their sphere, but they are not of 
any account in yours. Ask your friend Lord Sandilands ; 
he is a kind friend to me also, and a man who knows the 
world thoroughly j and he will tell you I am right." 

" Xo, he won't ! " said Miles triumphantly. " No, he 
won't ! He will tell you, on the contrary, that you are quite 
wrong j he will tell you that he knows I love you, and have 



268 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



dared to hope, to believe that you love me. He will tell 
you that I have told him what is my dearest hope, and that 
he shares it ; and more, Grace, more than that, he will tell 
you that he came here with me to-day on purpose that I 
might learn my fate, and be no longer in suspense ; and 
that he is on duty at this moment, keeping the old ladies 
in talk, just to give me this precious opportunity. Now, 
where are all your arguments 1 where are my wise friends ? 
where is this terrible world to whom we are to be sacrificed? 
You have nothing more to say, Grace ; your ' never, never, 
never ! ' cannot hurt me any more." 

For one brief moment he triumphed. For one moment 
his arm was around her, and his lips were pressed to hers. 
But the next she had started from his embrace, and stood 
pale and breathless before him. 

" Is this really true 1 " she said ; " does Lord Sandilands 
approve ? " She asked him only to gain a moment's time 
for thought ; she was terribly disconcerted by this compli- 
cation, it increased her difficulties immensely. But Miles 
saw in the question only a symptom of yielding, only a 
proof of his victory. 

" Yes, yes," he said eagerly, " it is true ; it is indeed ! 
He is the only real friend I have in the world, the only man 
whose opinion I care for, and he is on my side. Now, 
Grace, you must yield ; you cannot refuse me." 

She stood for a moment motionless and silent. Then her 
nerves, generally so strong, so completely under control, 
gave way. The violence of the struggle, the intensity of 
the pain she was suffering, that overwhelming remembrance 
■of the past, the agonizing sense of what might have been, 
but was now quite impossible, the feebleness of the only 
weapon which she could venture to use in this battle in which 
her own heart was her adversary, — all these overcame her, 
and she sunk upon the bench in a helpless agony of tears. 

Terrified by her distress, Miles Challoner knelt before her, 
and implored her to explain the cause of this sudden grief. 
But all his prayers were vain. She wept convulsively for 
many minutes, and was literally unable to speak. When 
at last she conquered the passion of tears, she felt and 
looked so very ill that he became alarmed on a fresh score. 

" You are ill," he said, " shall I go for Mrs. Bloxam ? 
.Shall I take you to the house 1 " 



& 



])ieu disposi:. 2G'J 

She made a sign with her hand that he should not speak, 
then leaned her head against the bench, and closed her eyes. 
He stood by, awkward and silent, watching her. After a 
little while she sat up, and said faintly : 

" Will you leave me 1 Go away from me for the present 
— I am ill ; but it is only from agitation. Let me be alone 
for a while ; you shall see me again when I am able." 

" Of course I will leave you, if you wish it," said Miles, 
with all the timidity and embarrassment of a man in the 
presence of feminine weakness and suffering ; " but I am 
afraid you are not fit to be left alone." 

" I am indeed," she urged, and her face grew whiter as 
she spoke ; " I shall recover myself, if I am left alone. 
Don't fear for me. Go to the house, and do not say you 
have seen me. Go by the lime-walk into the avenue ; I 
will go by the garden. No one will see me ; and if I can 
get to my room and lie down for a little, I shall be quite 
well. Pray, pray go." 

She put her hands before her face, and Miles saw a quick 
shudder pass over her from head to foot. He was afraid 
to go, afraid to stay ; at length he obeyed her, and took 
the way towards the house which she had indicated, feeling 
bewildered and alarmed. 

When Miles Challoner reentered the drawing-room at 
Hardriggs he found Lord Sandilands still there, held in 
durance by Lady Belwether and Mrs. Bloxam. Lord Sandi- 
lands had found his hostess immovable, and no other after- 
noon callers had had the kindness to come and partially 
release him. Mrs. Bloxam kept her eyes and her fingers 
steadily and unremittingly engaged with her fancy-work, 
and Lady Belwether persisted in discoursing on music and 
religion. With his accustomed philosophy Lord Sandilands 
accepted the situation, consoling himself by the reflection 
that a day or two could not make any difference in what he 
had to say to Mrs. Bloxam, and that the chief object of his 
present exertions had at least been secured, for he enter- 
tained a satisfactory conviction that Miles and Gertrude had 
met " somewhere about." Miles returned too soon, in one 
sense, for the old gentleman's wishes ; he would rather have 
found him utterly oblivious of time ; in that case, and if no 
consideration of anybody's convenience had occurred to 
Miles, Lord Sandilands would have felt confidence in the 



270 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



prospering of the suit. But Miles came in looking as little 
like a successful and happy lover as he could look, and Lord 
Sandilands perceived in an instaDt that things had gone 
■wrong. He did not give Miles time to speak before he rose, 
and saying, "You have clear ideas of time, Miles; we ought 
to be back before now. — Business, Lady Belwether, business 
— you don't understand its claims, happily for you. — Good- 
bye, Mrs. Bloxam ; tell Miss Lambert I'm sorry not to have 
seen her ; " he got himself and his melancholy, and indeed 
frightened-looking, companion out of the room and out of 
the house. 

" Now tell me all about it," said Lord Sandilands to 
Miles when they were in the carriage ; "what has happened? 
You have seen her, of course 1 " 

" Yes," said Miles ruefully, and then with much embarrass- 
ment he told Lord Sandilands what had occurred. 

The narrative perplexed and distressed the listener. He 
understood Gertrude's feelings up to a certain point, but no 
farther ; he could not understand why Miles's representa- 
tions of his advocacy of his suit had had no effect in mode- 
rating her apprehensions of the world's view of such a 
marriage. He could say little or nothing to console Miles, 
Taut he told him he did not regard Miss Lambert's decision 
as final, or the nervous attack which had so alarmed him as 
of any import. 

" I will see her, and have it out with her," said Lord 
Sandilands to himself; "and if it is necessary for her 
happiness's sake and that of Miles, I will tell her the 
truth." 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 271 



look % Cjraft. 



CHAPTEE I. 

AEGROTAT ANIMO. 

MISS GRACE LAMBERT had made herself so popular 
at Hardriggs, had so ingratiated herself with all stay- 
ing in that hospitable mansion, that the news, duly conveyed 
to the breakfast-table by Mrs. Bloxam on the morning after 
Miles Challoner's visit, that she was too unwell to leave her 
room, threw a considerable damp over the company assem- 
bled. Old Sir Giles, who had been very much impressed 
by Gertrude's quiet manner and cheerful spirits since she 
had been staying in the house — who had been perfectly 
astonished at the discovery that, though an opera-singer and 
a great public favourite, she had, as he phrased it, "no 
d — — d nonsense about her" — was the first to break out 
into loudly-expressed lamentation, mingled with suggestions 
of sending off at once to Hastings for medical advice, or 
telegraphing to London with the same object. Lady Bel- 
wether was distressed beyond measure ; the idea of any one 
so charming, any one capable of yielding such exquisite 
delight, suffering from pain or sickness seemed to be some- 
thing quite beyond the old lady's ken. She was at Gertrude's 
bedside within five minutes after she had heard of her young 
friend's indisposition, and was shocked at the swollen eye- 
lids and pallid drawn face of her idol. The Dean, too, 
received the news with great regret : he had experienced 
much pleasure in Miss Lambert's society. The very fact of 
her position had had its secret charm ; there was something 
specially pleasant in being brought into daily communion 
with one whose status in life was considered equivocal, but 
whose conduct was unexceptionable, and, if occasion re- 
quired, would bear any amount of scrutiny. All great men 



27-2 



THE KOCK. AHEAD. 



have their enemies ; the Dean was not without his. The 
odium theologicum, than which there is nothing stronger, 
had made him its butt on various occasions, and many of 
his clerical brethren had poured out the vials of their wrath, 
through the medium of the Church journals to which they 
contributed, on his devoted head. The Dean had hitherto 
never replied to any of these attacks ; but he had thought 
more than once, as he sat nursing his knee and looking out 
through the bay-window of the library at Hardriggs, that 
he should be by no means sorry if the contemporaneoiis 
visit of Miss Lambert and himself were made the subject of 
attack ; and he had planned out a very brilliant and taking 
letter in reply — a letter abounding in charity and in quo- 
tations from the Fathers, Pollok's Course of Time, and the 
Christian Year. The Dean expressed to Lady Belwether 
that, charming as her guests were in the aggregate, Miss 
Lambert's secession would leave among them a blank, a 
hiatus, which was not merely valde deflendvs, but which, in 
point of fact, it would be impossible to fill up ; and the old 
lady, though she did not understand Latin, comprehended 
the general nature of the remark, and found in it new 
cause for self-gratulation, and fresh weapons of defence 
against the insidious attacks of Martha and the Reverend 
Tophet. Thei'e were, it is true, certain people staying at 
Hardriggs who seemed to take it as a grievance that any 
" person in Miss Lambert's position," as they were good 
enough to call it, should be taken ill at all ; but they were 
in a decided minority, and most of them were very much 
ashamed of the opinion they had held when they found the 
Dean of Burwash taking the young lady's indisposition so 
much to heart. 

Had any one of them the slightest suspicion of the real 
cause of Gertrude's ailment 1 Not one. Would any one of 
them have given credence for a moment, if they had been 
told, that on the previous day the gii'l had refused the 
proffered hands of two men, one of them an earl, the other 
a wealthy commoner? Not one. "Such things are all 
very well in books, my dear," Lady Belwether would have 
told you, adding from memory a list of ennobled actresses 
who had all done honour to the position in life to which 
they had been raised ; but the chances came but seldom, 
and were always taken advantage of by those to whom they 



.1XU0T.YT AMMO. 2T-) 

were oHl'1-l.'lI. What would have been the effect on the host 
ami hostess, and on the rest of their company, if it had 
become known that Lord Ticehurst had made Miss Lambert 
an oiler, it would be impossible to say. They would have 
wondered at him, they would have wondered much more at 
her, and they would have professed to pity, and probably 
have cordially hated them both. However, that was a 
secret which of all in that house was known but to Gertrude 
alone, and she was not one who would wittingly let it pass 
her lips. 

She was ill ; she had a perfect right to say so, and was 
not uttering the slightest falsehood in the assertion. That 
dreadful sinking of the heart, that utter prostration, that 
deep, dead blankness of spirits, that hopelessness, that 
refusal to be comforted — if this did not constitute illness, 
what did? He did love her, then? She had known it 
long, but what bliss it was to hear him avow it ! Should 
she ever lose the remembrance of him as he stood before 
her — the light in his eye, the pose of his head, the tone of 
his voice ? True ? She would stake her life on that man's 
truth. What a difference between his diffident earnestness 
and the theatrical swagger with which Gilbert Lloyd asked 
her the same question — ah, how many years ago ! Lord 
Ticehurst, too, — she had almost forgotten his visit and its 
purport, so overshadowed was it by the importance of the 
affair which immediately succeeded it, — Lord Ticehurst — 
he was, in his way, considerate and kindly — meant to be all 
courteous and all honest ; she hoped her manner to him 
had not been brusque or abrupt. Countess of Ticehurst, 
eh ? — rank, wealth, station. For an instant a hard, cold, 
) proud look, which had been a stranger to her face of late, 
flitted across her features, and then faded away. No ! 
Those might have had their allurements when she first 
learned Gilbert Lloyd's worthlessness, and re-commenced her 
life, scorning to yield, and merely looking on all human 
weaknesses as stepping-stones for her advancement. She 
had learned better things than that now. Miles ! Could 
it be possible that but a comparatively short time ago he 
had been supremely indifferent to her ? that she had looked 
on and seen the love for her growing in his heart, without 
a dream of ever reciprocating it ? And now — Refused him ! 
.she could have done nothing else. And for his own sake — 

T 



274 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

as she had told him, but as he seemed unable to compre- 
hend, — for his own sake. For the love of such a man as 
Miles Challoner she would have risked everything, in the 
first appreciation of such a sentiment, so fresh and novel to 
her in all her experience of life — and that experience had 
been singular and not small ; to be the recipient of such a 
passion as that man proffered and laid at her feet, she would 
nave let her dead past bury its dead ; forgotten, buried, 
stamped down out of all chance of resurrection the events 
of her early life — her marriage, her separation from her 
husband. The compact made between her and Gilbert 
Lloyd should have been more than ever religiously fulfilled. 
That she held that husband at her mercy she knew perfectly 
well : only once had he ventured to question her power 
that evening at Mrs. Burge's reception, and his conduct 
then had given her ample proof of the impossibility of his 
resistance to her will. She had nothing to fear from him ; 
and she knew him well enough to be certain that he had 
kept that secret at least locked in his own breast. But 
Miles ? No ! she had done rightly ; even if her apprecia- 
tion of Miles Challoner's warm admiration and generous 
regard had not grown and deepened into a feeling, the 
strength of which forbade her striving against it, and which 
she knew and confessed to herself to be love, she would 
have rebelled against any attempt to hoodwink or deceive 
that loyal-hearted gentleman. But now the attempt had 
been treachery of the basest kind. She loved him — loved 
him wildly, passionately, and yet with an intermingled 
reverence and respect such as her girlish fancy had never 
dreamed of; and she had refused him, had told him — not 
indeed calmly or quietly, for once her self-control had failed 
her, but with earnestness and decision — that her fate was 
decided, her way of life quite fixed, and that she could 
never be his wife ! Ah, if they could have known all, those 
good people downstairs, they would scarcely have wondered 
at Miss Lambert's indisposition. They ascribed her illness 
to over-exertion, over-excitement, the reaction after the 
feverish professional life of the past few months. A little 
rest, they said to each other, would " bring her round." A 
little rest ! Something more than a little rest is required, 
as they would have allowed, could they have seen what 
no one, not even Mrs. Bloxam, saw, — the favourite of the 



^EGROTAT ANIMO. 275 

public with dishevelled hair and streaming eyes stretched 
prone upon her pillow, and sobbing as though her heart 
would break ! 

Miss Grace Lambert's illness or indisposition, thus evoking 
the compassion of the company staying at Hardriggs, was, 
whatever the company might have thought about it, known 
to herself to spring purely from mental distress. The same 
teterrima causa acted on Lord Sandilands, but brought about 
a different physical result. On the morning after Miles had 
communicated the result of his interview with Gertrude 
the old nobleman awoke with a return of the symptoms 
which had previously alarmed him so much increased that 
he felt it necessary to send for a local practitioner, by 
whose report he would be guided as to the expediency of 
summoning his own ordinary physician from London. 

Hastings is so essentially a resort of invalids, that the 
faculty is to be found there in every variety. Allopathy 
seated far back in its brougham, looks sedately and snugly 
at the saunterers on the promenade ; while Homoeopathy 
thinking to assume a virtue even if it have it not, and to 
wear the livery of medicine though scorned by regular 
practitioners, whirls by, black-clothed and white-chokered, 
in its open four-wheeler. Nor are there wanting the 
followers of even less generally received science. On that 
charming slope, midway between Hastings and St. Leonard's, 
where a scrap of green struggles to put in an arid appearance 
amidst the vast masses of rock and sand, Herr Douss, the 
favourite pupil of Priessnitz (what a large-hearted fellow 
he must have been, to judge by the number of his favourite 
pupils ! ), opened a water-cure establishment, to which, for 
financial reasons, he has recently added the attractions of a 
Turkish bath, and invariably has a houseful of damp hypo- 
chondriacs. And in the immediate neighbourhood is there 
not the sanatorium of the celebrated Mr. Crax ? a gentle- 
man who has discovered the secret that no mortal ailment 
can withstand being rubbed in a peculiar manner, and who 
shampoos you, and rubs you, and pulls your joints, and 
pommels you all over until you become a miracle of youth 
and freshness, to which the renovated .ZEson could not be 
compared. 

It is not for an instant to be supposed that any of this 
unlicensed band were allowed to work their will on the 

t 2 



a 



276 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

person of Lord Sandilands. The old gentleman was far too 
careful of his health to quit the immediate precincts of his 
private physician without being relegated to some one to 
whom that physician had knowledge, and in whom he had 
trust. Sir Charles Dumfunk, of Harley Street, habitually at- 
tended Lord Sandilands, and was liked by his lordship as a 
friend as well as esteemed as a physician. A very courtly old 
gentleman was Sir Charles, one who for years had been 
honorary physician to the Grand Scandinavian Opera, and 
had written more medical certificates for sulky singers and 
dancers than any other member of his craft. In his capacity 
of fashionable physician — the lungs and throat were supposed 
to be his speciality — Sir Charles Dumfunk had the power 
of bidding many of his patients to quit their usual pursuits, 
and devote themselves to the restoration of their health 
in a softer climate. The ultra-fashionables were generally 
sent to Nice, Cannes, or Mentone ; " it little matters," the 
old gentleman used to remark ; " they will carry Belgrave 
Square and its manners and customs with them wherever 
they go." Nouveaux riches were despatched to Madeira, 
energetic patients to Algiers, while mild cases were per- 
mitted to pass their winter at Hastings. At each one of 
these places the leading physician was Sir Charles Dumfunk's 
friend. Little Dr. Bede of St. Leonard's swore by the great 
London Galen, who invariably sent him a score of patients 
■during the winter, and was as good to him as a couple of 
hundred a-year. Lord Sandilands had come down armed 
with a letter of introduction to Dr. Bede, and had sent it 
on by his servant, accompanied by a brace of partridges 
from the Belwether estate, very soon after his arrival. Dr. 
Bede had acknowledged the receipt of letter and birds in a 
very neat little note, had looked-up Lord Sandilands in the 
.Peei-age — the only lay book in his medical library — and had 
left his card at his lordship's lodgings. Consequently, when, 
the morning after Miles's fiasco at Hardriggs, Dr. Bede 
was summoned to come to Lord Sandilands at once, physcian 
and patient knew as much about each other as, failing a 
personal interview, was possible. 

Symptoms detailed, examination made, Dr. Bede — a very 
precise and methodical little gentleman, with a singularly 
neatly-tied black neckerchief, towards which the eye of every 
patient wan infallibly attracted, and a curiously stony and 



-KdROTAT AMMO. 277 

expressionless blue eye of his own, out of which nothing 
could ever be gleaned, — Dr. Bede, tightly buttoned to the 
throat in his little black surtout, gives it as his decided 
opinion that it is gout, " and not a doubt about it." Lord 
Sandilands, really half-gratified that he is literally laid by 
the heels by an aristocratic and gentlemanly complaint, 
combats the notion — no hereditary predisposition, no pre- 
vious symptoms. Dr. Bede is firm, and Lord Sandilands is 
convinced. An affair of time, of course ; an affair very 
much at the patient's own will ; entire abstinence from this 
and that and the other, and very little of anything else : 
perfect quiet and rest of mind and body — of mind quite as 
much as body — repeats the little doctor, with a would-be 
sharp glance at the patient, whose mental worry shows itself 
in a thousand little ways, all of which are patent to the 
sharp-eyed practitioner. Lord Sandilands promises obe- 
dience with a half laugh ; he is very much obliged to Dr. 
Bede, he has thorough confidence in his comprehension and 
treatment of the case ; there is no need to send to town for 
Dumfunk? Di\ Bede, with confidence dashed with humility, 
thinks not — of course it is for his lordship to decide ; but 
he, Dr. Bede, has not the smallest fear, provided his 
instructions are strictly obeyed ; and he is quite aware of 
the value of the charge Sir Charles Dumfunk has confided 
to him. So far all is arranged. The doctor will look in 
every day, and his lordship promises strict compliance with 
his instructions. 

So far all is arranged ; but when the doctor is fairly 
gone, and the door is shut, and Lord Sandilands has heard 
the sound of the wheels of the professional brougham, low 
on the sand and loud on the stones, echo away, the old 
gentleman is fain to admit — first to himself, secondly to 
Miles, whom he summons immediately — that it is impossi- 
ble for him to keep his word so far as being mentally quiet 
is concerned. 

" If I'm to be clapped down on this particularly slippery 
chintz sofa, my dear boy," said he, " I must accept the hat. 
It might be better, but it might be much worse. I can heax 
the pleasant plashing of the sea, which, though a little melan 
choly, is deuced musical ; and I can see the boats floating 
away in the distance ; and I have every opportunity of 
making myself acquainted with the hideousncss of the pre- 



278 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



vailing fashion in female dress ; and if I am feeling too 
happy, there's safe to arrive a German band, and murder some 
of my favourite morceaux in a manner which reminds me 
that, like that king Thingummy, I am mortal, begad ! But 
it's no use for that little medico — polite, pleasant little person 
in his way, too — no use for that little medico to tell me to 
keep my mind perfectly quiet, and not to excite myself 
about anything. What a ridiculous thing for a man to 
prescribe ! as though we hadn't all of us always something 
to worry ourselves about ! " 

Miles Challoner was, as times go, a wonderful specimen 
of a selfless man. He had temporarily laid aside his own 
trouble on finding that his old friend was really ill, and it 
was in genuine good faith that he said — 

" Why, what in the world have you to worry you now, 
old friend ? What should prevent your keeping rigidly to 
that mental repose whieh Dr. Bede says is so essential to 
your well-doing 1 " 

" What have I got to worry me 1 What is likely to 
prove antipathic to my being quiet ? " asked Lord Sandi- 
lands in petulant querulous tones. " 'Gad, when a man's 
old it's imagined that he has no care, no interest but in him- 
self ! You ought to know me better, Miles ; 'pon my soul 
you ought ! " 

" I do know all your goodness, and " 

" No, no ! Goodness and stuff ! Do you or do you not 
know the interest I take in you ? You do 1 Good ! Then 
is it likely I could allow affairs to remain as they are between 
you and Miss Lambert without worrying myself about them ? 
without trying my poor possible to bring them right 1 ' 

" My dear old friend " 

" Yes, yes ! your dear old friend ; that's all very well ; 
you treat me like a child, Miles. I know you mean it 
kindly ; but I've been accustomed to act and think for 
myself for so long that I can't throw off the habit even now, 
when that dapper little fellow tells me I ought ; and I must 
at once go into this business of Grace Lambert's. I have 
my own ideas on that matter, and I won't at all regard her 
decision as final, notwithstanding your solemn face and 
manner. Now, look here, my dear boy, it's of no use 
lifting up that warning finger ; if you cross my wishes I 
shall become infinitely worse, and less bearable. I've always 



,i:i;rotat animo. 279 

beard that gout is a disease in -which, above all others, the 

patient must be humoured. I must see There ! you're 

jumping up at once — and quite enough to give me a sharp 
attack — simply because you thought I was going to name 
your divinity. "Wasn't it so ? I thought as much. 
Nothing of the sort ; I was about to say that I must see 
Mrs. Bloxam at once. I have some very special business to 
talk over with her, and I should be much obliged if you, 
Miles, would take a fly and go over at once to Hardriggs 
and bring Mrs. Bloxam back with you." 

" 1 1 — go over to Hardriggs after " 

" Go over to Hardriggs ! And why not? I'm sure you 
could not complain of your reception by Sir Giles and Lady 
Belwether ; they have been most cordially polite to you on 
every occasion of your visiting them, and they are the host 
and hostess at Hardriggs, I believe. Besides, I ask you to 
do me a special favour, in doing which you need expose 
yourself to no disagreeables, even to seeing any one whom 
you would rather not see." 

" You are quite right, and I will be off at once." 

" That's spoken like my dear good fellow ! Good-bye, 
Miles, good-bye ! — If he does come across her in the house 
or the grounds ? " said the old gentlemen, as the door closed 
behind his protege. " Well, you never can tell ; it might 
have been whim, a mere passing caprice, in which case she 
might be perfectly ready to revoke to-day ; and no harm 
could be done by his meeting her again. Or it might be 
something more serious — is something more serious pro- 
bably, for Gertrude is a girl with plenty of resolution and 
firm will. At any rate, I'm right in having Mrs. Bloxam 
here to talk it over, and I think I shall hold to the pro- 
gramme which I have already arranged in my mind." 

The Hastings fly, drawn by the flea-bitten gray horse, 
which conveyed Miles Ohalloner to Hardriggs, went any- 
thing but gaily over the dusty, hilly road. The driver, a 
sullen young man, with dreary views of life, saw at a glance 
that his fare was in an abstracted frame of mind, and looked 
anything but likely to pay for extra speed. So he sat on 
his box, driving the usual half-crown-an-hour rate, giving 
the flea-bitten gray an occasional chuck with the reins, pro- 
ducing a corresponding "job "from the bit, and occupying 



280 



THE KOCK AHEAD. 



himself now by fitting a new end to his whip-lash, now by 
humming dolorous ditties in the hardest Sussex twang, 
with a particularly painful and constantly recurring develop- 
ment of the letter " r." Miles sat leaning back in the 
carriage, his hat thrust over his eyes, his hands plunged 
deep in his pockets. He was buried in thought of no 
pleasant kind, and neither heard nor heeded the chaff of the 
passers-by, which was loud and frequent. The first portion 
of the way to Hardriggs lies along the Fairlight-road, and 
numerous parties of cheerful Cockneys, in vehicles and on 
foot, on their way to the romantic Lover's Seat, and the 
waterfall where there is no water, and the pretty glen, 
passed the carriage containing the moody young man, and 
commented openly on its occupant. " He don't look like a 
pleasurer, he don't ! " was a remark that gained immediate 
sympathy ; while a more comic suggestion that " he looked 
as if he'd lost a fourpenny-piece," was received with tumul- 
tuous applause. Neither style of comment had the least 
effect on Miles Challoner, who remained chewing the cud 
of his own reflections until the stopping of the fly at the 
outer gate of Hardriggs Park reminded him of having seen 
Lord Ticehurst driving through that gate on the occasion of 
his visit on the previous day. Suddenly it flashed across 
him that the young nobleman's manner had been specially 
odd and remarkable. Could it have been that — and yet 
the expression of Lord Ticehurst's face was chapfallen and 
disconsolate, anything but that of a successful suitor. All 
the world had said, during the past season, that his lordship 
had been very strongly epris of Miss Lambert, he had paid 

her constant attention, and That could have had no 

influence on her decision of yesterday ; she could never have 
listened to Lord Ticehurst's protestations, even if he had 
made any such, or he would not have gone away in so 
melancholy and depressed a state. Besides, had not Grace 
told him that she loved him, Miles — that he was not mis- 
taken in her — that she had not misled him ? And yet she 
would not marry him ? Ah, there must be some mistake, 
something which could be explained away 1 Lord Sandi- 
lands had evidently felt that when he had asked him to 
come over with this message to Mrs. Bloxam. He would see 
Miss Lambert — not asking for her directly, that would be 
too marked, but taking an opportunity of chancing on her 



.IXUtuTAT ANIJIO. 281 

and — we]], after all, the dearest object of his life might be 
obtained. 

They were pleased to see the good-looking young man at 
Hardriggs, as he descended from the fly and joined the pre- 
luncheon croquet-party on the lawn. He had been there 
very recently, it is true ; but good-looking young men are 
always welcome in country-houses, where indeed a fresh 
face, a fresh voice, a few fresh ideas, are priceless. Miles 
threw a hurried glance over the croquet-players. Miss 
Lambert was not amongst them. They were all young 
people, who, after the first greeting, returned to their game 
and its necessary accompaniment of flirtation. But Dean 
Asprey was seated under "a wide-spreading beech-tree," 
reading the Times, and he rose as he saw Miles approach, 
dropped the paper, and went to meet him. As the Dean 
approached, Miles could not help noticing his aristocratic 
appearance; could scarcely help smiling at the wonderful 
way in which the tailor had combined the fashionable and 
clerical element in his dress. 

" How do you do, my dear Mr. Challoner ? " said Dean 
Asprey, in those bland mellifluous tones which had won so 
many hearts. " So delighted to see you here again ! With 
only one fear tempering my pleasure, and that is that — 
believing you to be alone 1 yes, that is so 1 — the fear that 
my dear old friend Lord Sandilands is indisposed 1 Say I'm 
wrong, and set my fears at rest ! " 

" I would gladly, Mr. Dean ; but I cannot. Lord Sandi- 
lands has a sharp attack of the gout." 

" Of the gout 1 Well, well, I can recollect John Borlaso 
these — ah, no matter how many years ; too many to trouble 
to recollect — and the gout was the last complaint one would 
have ascribed to him." 

" Well, he has it now, without a doubt. Dr. Bede of St. 
Leonards has seen him, and pronounced definitely in the 
matter. I have come over to ask Mrs. Bloxam, who is a 
very old friend of his, to go and see him." 

"Ay, ay, indeed ! Mrs. Bloxam — a very charming and 
estimable person, by the way, and apparently well versed in 
many questions which, for females at least, would be con- 
sidered abstruse — Mrs. Bloxam is in great request just now. 
Her young charge Miss Lambert is also ill, and " 



282 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



" Miss Lambert ill ! " cried Miles ; " what is the 
matter ? " 

"O, nothing of any consequence, I believe," replied the 
Dean. (" Charmingly ingenuous the youth of the present 
day," he said to himself : " he has at once revealed the 
reason of his coming over here again so soon, without having 
the smallest idea that he has done so.") " Nothing of any 
consequence ; a trifling indisposition, a migraine, a nichts, 
which in any one else would be thought nothing of, but 
which in Miss Lambert is naturally regarded with special 
interest. You know her, of course. I mean know how to 
appreciate her, rather than know in the mere ordinary sense 
of acquaintance 1 " 

" I — I — yes, O yes ! I've had the pleasure of seeing 
Miss Lambert frequently in town, and think her — of course, 
most charming — You're sure there's nothing serious the 
matter with her, because Lord Sandilands, don't you know, 
is such an old friend of hers, and takes such interest, 
that " 

" I know that perfectly, and would not dream of deceiving 
you for an instant. Some of us, I know, are suspected of 
doing evil that good may come," said the Dean, with a 
specially sweet smile ; " but it is a very dangerous doctrine, 
which I have always held in abhorrence. I see a servant 
passing the end of the lawn, and I suppose I may be con- 
sidered sufficiently at home here to venture to give an order. 
— James, would you be good enough to let Mrs. Bloxam 
know that Mr. Cnalloner is here, and would gladly speak 
with her 1 Thank you, very much. — And now, my dear 
Mr. Challoner, to return to our very interesting conversa- 
tion. What were we talking about 1 " 

"You were mentioning that Miss Lambert was ill, 
and " 

" Ay, to be sure, Miss Lambert ! What a charming 
girl ! what grace and beauty ! what amiability ! what un- 
affected And you have known her for some time ! I 

can well understand her creating a great sensation in 
London. Such a mixture of beauty and talent is very 
rare, and naturally very impressive. What says Dryden ? — 

' Old as I am, for ladies' love unfit, 
The power of beauty I remember yet.' 



AEGROTAT AMIMO. 283 

What a charming couplet, is it not ? And so, as you 
were saving, Miss Lambert is a great success in London 
society \ " 

'• Bather as you were saying, Mr. Dean," said Miles, with 
a feeble attempt at a smile, — he knew he should not see 
Gertrude, and the conversation was beginning to bore him, 
— " though I can cordially indorse the remark. Miss 
Lambert made a complete conquest of every one she met, 
including Lady Belwether, who is hastening towards us. — 
How do you do, Lady Belwether 1 I'm sorry to learn I 
have left one sick friend to come to another." 

" Our dear Grace is certainly better, my dear Mr. 
Challoner. — Dean, you will be glad to hear that. — Fancy 
my position, Mr. Challoner ; the responsibility of having 
any one like that in one's care, on whom so much might be 
said to hang, you know. Sir Giles was for telegraphing 
off at once to London for advice, but Grace would not have 
it. And she has proved to be right, as she always is, 
dear creature ! She is much better, and she heard the 
message you brought, Mr. Challoner, about Mrs. Bloxam, 
and has not raised the least objection to her going. Indeed, 
so like her, sweet thing ! she seems to have forgotten herself 
in anxiety about Lord Sandilands." 

"I suppose, Lady Belwether, that there is not much 
chance of my seeing Miss Lambert 1 " 

" Seeing her ? To-day ? My dear sir, not the remotest 
chance in the world. I strictly forbade her thinking of 
leaving her room to-day ; and when Mrs. Bloxam has gone 
away with you, I shall take her place at Grace's side. — 
You think I'm right, Dean 1 The importance of such a 
case as this is — Exactly, I knew you'd agree with me. 
What do you think Lady Hawksley said when she heard 
the darling; was ill 1 " 

" Knowing Lady Hawksley," said the Dean, again with 
his pleasant smile, " the field of speculation is too vast for 
me to attempt to enter on it. What did her ladyship 
remark ? " 

" She said it must be a horrid bore for me ; and what 
would Miss Lambert have done if she had been taken ill 
in the season, when she was singing ? Did you ever hear 
such horrible things 1 But I told her that if Miss Lambert 
had been taken ill in town she would have had everybody's 



284 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



sympathy, from the Queen downwards ; which is more than 
can be said of some people, I could not help adding." 

As the old lady finished speaking, Mrs. Bloxam appeared, 
and very shortly afterwards she and Miles took their leave, 
and started off for Hastings in the fly. Miles had rather 
looked forward to this drive in Mrs. Bloxam's company. 
The thought of it had afforded him some little consolation 
when he found that there was no chance of his seeing Grace. 
In default of the presence of the adored one it is the lover's 
greatest delight to find some one who will either talk about 
her, or will listen to his outspoken raptures. Miles thought 
that in Mrs. Bloxam he might possibly find both these 
virtues combined ; and accordingly they had scarcely cleared 
the gates of the Hardriggs avenue before he began to ply 
his companion with a series of questions concerning Miss 
Lambert. These questions were artfully framed, and a less 
worldly-wise woman than Mrs. Bloxam might have been 
deceived as to their purport. But that worthy lady was 
not merely always perfectly cute and observant, but on this 
particular occasion she was, if possible, more than ever on 
her guard. Although during the previous day her fingers 
had been unremittingly engaged on her "fancy-work" 
during the entire period of Lord Sandilands' visit her eyes 
had strayed now and then to the large looking-glass close 
by her, which reflected a window and a part of the garden 
beyond, leading to the lime-walk. In that looking-glass 
Mrs. Bloxam had seen her charge and Miles Challoner 
walking together, talking earnestly, and through the same 
medium Mrs. Bloxam had seen each of them return sepa- 
rately and ill at ease. The ex-schoolmistress had all her 
life been in the habit of putting two and two together, and 
arriving at the result with commendable quickness and 
accuracy, and her perspicacity did not fail her now. She 
felt certain that Miles had proposed, and that Gertrude had 
refused him, though she loved him; equally certain that 
Lord Sandilands was aware of a portion — she couldn't tell 
how much — of the real state of affairs, and that he had sent 
for her with the intention of discussing them with her : 
and Mrs. Bloxam very much deprecated the idea of any 
such discussion. She did not know where it might end, or 
what it might lead to ; and there were passages in the life 
of her quondam pupil which Mrs. Bloxam had not thought 



-lXJROTAT ANIJIO. 285 

it necessary to dilate upon, or indeed to introduce to Lord 
Sandilands' notice ; and circumstances might render the 
farther suppression of those passages impossible. 

So Mrs. Bloxam sat back in the fly and answered all 
Miles Challoner's questions in monosyllables, and was glad 
when, finding it impossible to extract anything from his 
companion, the young man lapsed into silence and left her 
to her own reflections, occupying himself with his. Neither 
were roseate-hued. The hope which had sprung up in 
Miles's breast as he journeyed to Hardriggs seemed sud- 
denly to have paled and faded out — why he knew not. 
Grace was ill, to be sure, but the fact of her illness did not 
account for the sudden change in the aspect of his fortunes 
— did not account for that sinking of the heart, that de- 
pression, that avertissement of coming trouble which we 
have all of us experienced many times in our lives, and 
which just then was settling down in thick black clouds 
over Miles Challoner. And Mrs. Bloxam's reflections were 
sombre and unpleasant. What Mr. Browning calls " the 
conscience- prick and the memory-smart " were beginning 
to tell upon her ; she had lost the power of self-possession, 
and the faculty of lying — at least of lying in that superior 
manner which she had once possessed— had deserted her. 

So they drove along in silence, and the holiday excur- 
sionists to Fairlight had more fun out of them and much 
openly-expressed chaff, opining how that "his mother had 
found him out courtin' the gal, and had fetched him away ; " 
how that " he'd married the old woman for her money, and 
found out his mistake." But when they arrived at Kobert- 
son's-terrace, they found that Lord Sandilands had ex- 
perienced a renewal of his attack, and that Dr. Bede had 
expressed a strong desire that his patient should be left 
perfectly quiet and undisturbed. To this, however, Lord 
Sandilands would not agree, and, pursuant to his orders, 
Mrs. Bloxam was shown to his room immediately after her 
arrival. 

She found the old nobleman faint and weak, just recover- 
ing from a sharp bout of pain. The sight of her seemed 
to rouse and please him. He asked her a few unimportant 
questions about the people at Hardriggs, seemed difficult 
to convince that Gertrude's indisposition was only of a 
temporary character, spoke in a manner that was anything 



286 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



but cheerful or reassuring about his own health, and re- 
mained so long flying round the real matter at his heart, 
that Mrs. Bloxam began to think he would never settle 
on it. At length, when the landlady of the lodgings 
had left the room and they were alone, Lord Sandilands 
said — 

" Our acquaintance dates so far back, Mrs. Bloxam, and 
has been of such a character, that there need be no reticene 
on either side." 

Mrs. Bloxam winced at his words, and moved uneasily on 
the chair which she had taken by the sick man's bedside. 
But she was sufficient mistress of herself to bow and utter 
a few polite commonplaces. 

"I could not get an opportunity of speaking to you 
yesterday," continued his lordship ; " but I know how 
generally observant you are, and I am sure you cannot 
have failed to remark that my visit to Hardriggs with my 
young protege — for so I must regard Mr. Challoner — 
"was not a mere ceremonious call. There is no need in 
disguising from you — if indeed you do not know it already 
— that he is desperately in love with Gertrude. It will 
further tend to place us in our proper position if I tell you 
plainly, and without reserve, that Mr. Challoner yesterday 
proposed to Gertrude, and — was rejected." 

If Mrs. Bloxam had seen all plain sailing before her it is 
probable that she would have professed the liveliest as- 
tonishment, the greatest stupefaction, at this statement. But 
as she knew that she should have to wind her course 
through very doubtful channels, and would require all her 
skill to avoid shoals and contest storms, she thought it 
better to rely upon Lord Burleigh's plan, and content herself 
with a nod. 

This nod Lord Sandilands took to mean acquiescence. 
" You did comprehend all that ? " he asked. " I was only 
doing justice to the acuteness which I have always ascribed 
to you when I imagined such was the case. JSTow we come 
to the more serious part of the question. Why did Gertrude 
refuse that young man's offer ? Not that she did not, does 
not, love him 1 I'm an old fellow now, but I'm not old 
enough to have forgotten entirely that pleasant mute lan- 
guage; and if woman's looks and woman's ways are the 
same as they were thirty years since, Gertrude is decidedly 



.EGltOTAT ANIJIO. L'ST 

in love with Miles Challoner. You have not had many oppor- 
tunities of seeiug them together, and therefore cannot judge 
so well. But I know it. Why did she reject him then 1 
Why, ma'am, because, thank God, she inherits a certain 
proper pride ; and she felt that she, an unknown woman 
— unknown so far as family and friends are concerned, and 
with a precarious income dependent on her health and 
strength — was not going to permit a member of an old 
county family to enter into what might be thought a 
mesalliance for her." 

"Very proper," murmured Mrs. Bloxam, having nothing 
else to say. 

" Exactly ; very proper, under circumstances. But those 
circumstances must be changed ; they must no longer be 
permitted to exist. It must be my care, Mrs. Bloxam," 
continued Lord Sandilands, with additional gravity, " as it 
is my duty — yes, my bounden duty — to endow that young 
lady with such means that she can freely and frankly give 
herself to the man she loves, without any obligation on 
either side." 

" But to do that, my lord, you must acknowledge your 
relationship to Gertrude ? " 

" I have made up my mind to that already, Mrs. Bloxam," 
said the old gentleman; "I have a sort of idea that I 
shan't get over this attack, and that is a reparation which 
must be made before I die. O, not that I'm going to die 
just now," he added, as he saw her face change ; " but 
still " 

'•' Dont' you think you should have a nurse, my lord, — 
some one more accustomed to illness, and more able to 
devote herself entirely to your service, than the landlady 
here 1 If I could be of any use " 

" A thousand thanks, Mrs. Bloxam. But I have tele- 
graphed to town for my housekeeper — ah, I forgot you have 
not seen her ; she has only recently come to me, but seems a 
clear-headed, sensible woman — and she will come down and 
nurse me. I am a little faint just now, Mrs. Bloxam, and must 
ask you to leave me for the present. I will speak again to 
you on that subject before you and Gertrude leave Hard- 

riggS." 

DO 

Mrs. Bloxam left the room with sentiments of a very 
unpleasant kind. Lord Sandilands thought it was the want 



288 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

of fortune that induced Gertrude to refuse Miles Clialloner. 
But what about her relations with Mr. Gilbert Lloyd, of 
which his lordship was totally unaware i 



CHAPTER II. 

RECOGNITION. 

THE meditations of Mrs. Bloxam as she returned to 
Hardriggs were not agreeable. She was exceedingly 
puzzled as to what her best line of action would be, in 
consideration of her own interests, and, indeed, to do her 
justice, those of Gertrude. Justice is the more easily 
done in this respect, as the two were identical, and not to 
be separated by any of the ingenuity which Mrs. Bloxatn 
would no doubt have found for the occasion, had there been 
any profit in its employment. The position was a diffi- 
cult one, and she was glad of the solitary drive, which 
enabled her to lay it all out, like a map, before her mind, 
and study it at comparative leisure. The temporary illness 
of Gertrude was, she felt, in the present conjuncture of 
affairs, a point in her favour. She could not go to Lord 
.Sandilands, and, during the continuance of his attack of 
gout, Lord Sandilands could not go to her. That they 
should not meet until a decisive line of action had been 
arranged — first by Mrs. Bloxam in her own mind, and then 
imparted to and acceded to by Gertrude — was of the last 
importance ; and that was safe. The revelation of her 
parentage to Gertrude by Lord Sandilands would so imme- 
diately and radically alter the relations between her and 
her noble friend, that it could hardly be practicable to keep 
the fact of her marriage concealed from Loi'd Sandilands. 
That revealed, the sequel to the marriage must also be 
made known ; and what view would the old nobleman be 
likely to take of the remarkably original arrangement into 
which Gilbert Lloyd and Gertrude had entered ? Would 
he be excessively shocked, and insist at once on its reversal 1 
or would he regard it as on the whole the best and most 
sensible proceeding for two persons, who had discovered 



RECOGNITION. 289 

their marriage to be an immeasurable mistake and an in- 
calculable evil, to have given themselves such redress and 
relief as the law would have afforded them only at the cost 
of much expense and publicity ? Mrs. Bloxam entertained 
a conviction that the latter view was much the more probable 
one to be taken by Lord Sandilands ; but, in any case, how 
should she stand with him 1 Not only should she be convicted 
of having deceived him, and of gross negligence and breach of 
trust as regarded the young girl placed under her care, but 
she should be proved guilty of having received money for Ger- 
trude's maintenance and education for two years after they 
had ceased to be any concern of hers — after the girl's hus- 
band had undertaken the one, and the world had become 
the vehicle of the other. There was a double awkwardness 
and difficulty in this part of Mrs. Bloxam's puzzle. It was 
almost as unpleasant to admit the fact to Gertrude as to 
have it stated to herself by Lord Sandilands. Under 
no circumstances would it do for her to quarrel with Ger- 
trude, that was clear. If she ran the risk of contracting 
another marriage, the secret of the first would remain in 
Mrs. Bloxam's possession, and she would always be in Mrs. 
Bloxam's power. It must not be supposed that the woman 
was altogether heartless and cold-blooded in making these 
calculations : she had real affection for Gertrude at the 
bottom of them all ; but she was of a cool temperament 
and business-like habits, and she thoroughly understood the 
useful art of classifying her sentiments, and not permitting 
one order of them to interfere with another out of time 
and place. The position was a difficult one ; and it was 
the business aspect of it she had to consider just now. A 
comfortable home for the remainder of her life, a reasonable 
amount of the kind of pleasure and society which she liked, 
and a necessity for only the most trifling inroads upon her 
savings ; such were the blessings to the attainment of 
which Mrs. Bloxam looked forward as the legitimate 
value of her lien upon Gertrude. In the event of her 
declining to run the risk of marriage, and remaining on the 
stage, Mrs. Bloxam's material interests would be almost as 
secure ; so that she could afford to consider the matter with 
tolerable impartiality. She did not like to face the discussion 
which must take place between her and Gertrude, because 
of the money-transaction involved in it. Could she avoid 

u 



290 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

acknowedging it, she thought, and trust to Lord Sandilands, 
though he must find it out, being too careless and indifferent 
to think about it 1 That would be very nice, only she had 
no reason to suppose that Lord Sandilands was by any 
means careless or indifferent in money-matters. It was 
very unpleasant ; but it must be left to right itself some- 
how ; and as for the other and greater breach of trust 1 
After all, the girl eloped from the Vale House ; she did not 
assist or connive at the affair ; and she might excuse herself 
to Lord Sandilands on the plea of the readiness and kind- 
ness with which she acceded to Gertrude's request when she 
proposed to return to her house. What would Gertrude 
think, how would she act, when the revelation and the offer 
should be made to her ? Mrs. Bloxam had not answered 
any of these questions to her satisfaction, or dispelled any of 
these anxieties, when she reached Hardriggs. 

Miss Lambert was better, Lady Belwether was happy to 
say ; she had had some refreshing sleep, and would no 
doubt get on nicely now. Mrs. Bloxam went to the in- 
valid's room, and found Grace awake and looking very 
much better. Her face "bore traces of mental strife and 
suffering, but they had passed over, and she was now quite 
composed. Mrs. Bloxam was a judicious woman in every- 
thing, and she took care not to agitate Gertrude. 

" Lord Sandilands is very ill," she said, " but not dan- 
gerously so j and he is comfortable enough there, and not 
badly looked after. But he has sent for his own house- 
keeper, which is a good move. It is nothing but gout ; 
but he is not strong, and he will probably be laid up for 
some time." 

Gertrude asked some general questions, and Mrs. Bloxam 
answered them ; and then, settling herself in a comfortable 
attitude, and keeping Gertrude's face well in view, she told 
her that, in requesting her to visit him, Lord Sandilands had 
a particular object in view. The colour deepened a little 
on Gertrude's cheek as she inquired its nature. 

" I mean to tell you all about it, my dear," said Mrs. 
Bloxam ; " but if I am to do so, I must break through the 
reserve which I have always maintained — as I think it was 
best for both of us I should — and refer nob only to your 
marriage" — Gertrude started — " but to later circumstances, 



RECOGNITION. 291 

which render your position difficult. I suppose I have your 
permission to speak plainly?" 

" Certainly," replied Gertrude. " I am sure you would 
not, unnecessarily or without due consideration, say any- 
thing to wound my feelings ; and I am prepared to listen 
to anything you think it right to say." 

This was not a cordial speech, but Mrs. Bloxam did not 
mind that. She wanted permission to speak, and she had 
gotten it ; the manner of it was of no consequence. Things 
had changed since Gertrude had written the letter which 
procured her readmittance to the Vale House, but the 
natures of the two women had not undergone much alter- 
ation, and they felt only as much more warmly towards 
each other as prosperity and success predispose towards 
general kindliness and complacency. 

" You are right," said Mrs. Bloxam ; " I would not. You 
have not told me any particulars concerning your quarrel 
with your husband, and I don't wish to know — I really do 
not. I am not more free from curiosity, no doubt, than 
other people ; but I would rather not gratify it in this in- 
stance. There is only one thing that I must know, if you 
will tell it to me." She paused, and Gertrude said, looking 
steadily at her, — 

" What is it ? I may use my discretion about answering 
your question at all when I hear it ; but if I decide on 
answering it, be quite sure that I will tell you the exact 
truth." 

" No, you won't, my dear," said Mrs. Bloxam ; " I don't 
require it. I want only the vague truth ; tell me that. Is 
the secret of your quarrel with your husband one which 
puts him in your power — which secures your liberty, your 
right of action, to you under all circumstances — which 
makes the carrying out of this daring scheme of yours, this 
self-divorce, a matter distinctly of your choice, in which he 
cannot thwart or foil you ? " 

Gertrude's gaze at the speaker did not relax, her eyelids 
did not droop, but she took a little time before she an- 
swered. 

" I will tell you what you ask. The secret of my quarrel 
with Gilbert Lloyd is one which puts him in my power. 
He must do as I choose in every matter in which I am 

u 2 



292 



THE KOCK AHEAD. 



concerned. I am perfectly free ; he is hopelessly bound. 
But the agreement between us is mutual. I have no right 
over him, as he has none over me. I shall never recognize 
his existence in any way." 

" That you have the power of carrying out that resolution 
is the only thing I need to know," said Mrs. Bloxam. " It 
makes me clear about the advice I am going to give you. 
Having this perfect guarantee for his not venturing to in- 
terfere with you, you consider yourself of course entitled to 
act as if no such person as your husband were in existence. 
Have you any objection to tell me whether you are disposed 
to push this right of action to the extent of marrying again 
— of marrying Miles Challoner, for instance 1 " 

Mrs. Bloxam shifted her position as she asked this ques- 
tion, laid her head well back against the cushion of her 
chair, and did not look at Gertrude, who took longer to 
reply than before. When she spoke, the words came with 
difficulty. 

" You must have some very strong reason for asking me 
such a question." 

" I have, my dear. Mere curiosity, or even anything 
short of the necessity which exists for our understanding 
each other to a certain extent, would never have induced 
me to ask it. Will you answer me 1 " 

" Yes," said Gertrude, " I will. I acknowledge no limits 
to the extent to which I am disposed to push my right of 
action. I should marry without hesitation from motives of 
ambition ; I should many without hesitation if the man 
were any but what he is — if he were any one but Miles 
Challoner." 

Mrs. Bloxam sat bolt upright, and gazed at Gertrude in 
irrepressible, unmixed amazement. "What do you say?" 
she asked. " Can it be possible that we are all mistaken ? 
Lord Sandilands and I, and Miles Challoner himself — for he 
thinks you love him. I am as certain as I ever was of any 
human being's sentiments. Have you been blind to his 
love, his devotion to you 1 What do you mean ? " 

" I mean this," said Gertrude : " I know that Miles 
Challoner loves me ; he has told me so ; but I knew it 
before ; I have not been blind to his devotion ; and I love 
him." She paused. The listener's attitude and expression 
of uncomprehending astonishment remained unchanged. " I 



RECOGNITION. 293 

love him ; I know the difference now, and I know that 
what I once took for love did not deserve the name. I 
would not deceive him ; I would not dishonour him ; I 
would not involve him in the degradation of my life — for 
the degradation of the past is still upon me — for any joy 
the world could give me, not even for that of being his 
wife." 

The passion and earnestness of her speech almost trans- 
formed Gertrude. She surprised Mrs. Bloxam so much, 
that all her previously-arranged line of argument escaped 
her memory, and she could say nothing but — 

" Gertrude, Gertrude, you do astonish me ! " 

" Not more than I astonish myself, I assure you ; not so 
much. Before I knew him I don't think I could even have 
imagined what it was like to care more for the peace and 
happiness of another than for my own. I have learned 
what it is like now, and the lesson, in one word, means 
love. Go on with what you have to say to me, Mrs. 
Bloxam ; remembering in it all that I love Miles Challoner, 
and will never involve him in any way in my life." 

" But this completely upsets what I was going to say to 
you," said Mrs. Bloxam ; " it changes the whole state of 
things, but it renders it no less necessary that you should 
make up your mind how you will explain matters to Lord 
Sandilands." 

'• To Lord Sandilands ? " said Gertrude, inquiringly. 
" "What have I to explain to him, and why 1 " 

" Because he is Miles Challoner's friend and yours ; and 
because he knows that Miles wants to marry you, and most 
earnestly desires that the marriage should take place." 

" He, desires it ! How can that be 1 How can a man of 
Lord Sandilands' rank wish his friend to make so unequal a 
marriage — a marriage which the world he lives in would so 
utterly condemn 1 " 

" Probably because he has lived long enough in that 
world to know that its opinion is of no great value, and to 
think that Miles Challoner had better consult his own 
happiness than its prejudices. He is a great friend and 
admirer of yours also ; and, in short, I may as well tell you 
plainly and abruptly, he sent for me to consult me on the 
best means of overcoming what he considers misplaced pride 
and overstrained delicacy on your part, and inducing you to 



294 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

consent to his arranging the preliminaries to the marriage ; 
I mean " — here Mrs. Bloxam hesitated a little — " settling 
everything as your mutual friend." 

" It is well for him it cannot be," said Gertrude, bitterly, 
" or the world would hardly praise his conduct in helping 
Miles Challoner to a marriage with me. The interest Lord 
Sandilands takes in me deserves all my gratitude and as 
much of my confidence as I can give, and he shall have 
them. He may be displeased that his kind projects are 
not to be carried out, but he will understand that it is 
impossible." 

"I don't see that he will understand it," said Mrs. 
Bloxam, " unless you tell him about your marriage ; and 
how are you to do that 1 " She forgot for the moment that 
she spoke with the knowledge of Gertrude's parentage in 
her mind, but that Gertrude was quite ignorant of it. 

" Tell Lord Sandilands of my marriage ! " said Gertrude ; 
" what can you be thinking of 1 That must never be known 
to any one; he is a kind friend indeed, but nothing would 
induce me to tell him that.'''' 

" I beg your pardon ; of course not," said Mrs. Bloxam, 
recovering herself, and remembering that the communication 
Lord Sandilands intended to make must not be forestalled. 
" Your resolution surprised me so much, I grew confused. 
But how will you account for refusing Mr. Challoner 1 " 

" I shall account for it," said Gertrude, " on the best 
grounds — grounds which would be adequate in my own 
judgment had I never made the fatal mistake of my 
miserable marriage. If I were nothing more than the 
world knows or believes me to be, I should still hold myself 
an unsuitable wife for Mm, and should still refuse him for his 
own sake." 

" And this is what you will tell Lord Sandilands 1 " said 
Mrs. Bloxam. " Gertrude, are you sure you can stand firm 
to your decision against the pleading of your lover and the 
support and arguments of your friend ? " 

" I am quite sure," said Gertrude, " for I shall stand firm 
for their own sakes. To yield would be to injure, to 
hesitate would be to torment them : I will neither yield nor 
hesitate." 

" Lord Sandilands wishes to see you as soon as you can 
come with me to see him," said Mrs. Bloxam. " I know he 



RECOGNITION. 295 

intends to urge Mr. Challoner's cause with all the argument 
and all the authority in his power." 

" No argument and no authority can avail," said Gertrude. 

" And you are determined to go on in this stage-life ? " 

" Yes ; it is delightful to me in some respects, and it is 
independent and free. I don't say I have not had a struggle 
in reaching the determination I have arrived at, but I have 
reached it, and there is nothing more to be said or done. 
Whenever you choose, after a day or two, I will see Lord 
Sandilands ; he will help me to impress on Miles Challoner 
the uselessness, indeed the cruelty, of pressing a suit which 
can only pain me and avail him nothing. I shall convince 
him easily ; he knows the world too well to be difficult 
of persuasion of the justice of all that I shall say to him." 

" It appears to me," thought Mrs. Bloxam, " that I shall 
get out of this business safely whatever happens, if she only 
perseveres in hiding her marriage ; and I don't think there's 
much danger of her not doiDg so." 

" I am rather tired, dear," said Gertrude, after a pause, 
during which they had both kept silence, and turning 
towards Mrs. Bloxam with perhaps the sweetest smile and 
the friendliest gesture she had ever bestowed upon that 
lady ; " and I think we will not talk any more just now. 
Tell Lady Belwether I shall try to come down for a little 
this evening. I am far from suspecting the kind old lady 
of wishing me to tumble for the company ; but I should like 
to oblige her and the Dean, if possible." 

Mrs. Bloxam took the hint. Gertrude was left alone, to 
endure all the agony caused her by the resolution she had 
taken ; but yet to feel that she derived strength from 
having taken it, and that to get her decision finally and 
authoritatively communicated to Miles Challoner by Lord 
Sandilands, with the addition of an earnest request that be 
would not remain in England at present, and subject her 
and himself to the pain of meeting, was a very sensible 
relief. The bitterness of the suffering through which she 
passed at this time never quite died out of Gertrude's 
memory. There was something in it which wrung her soul 
with a far keener and deadlier anguish than all the coarser, 
more actual miseries which had beset her miserable married 
life. By the measure of the increased strength and refine- 
ment of her feelings, of the growth of her intellect, and the 



296 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



development of her tastes, the power and the obligation to 
suffer in this instance were increased. Of the man whom 
she had once fancied she loved, Gertrude never thought with 
any distinctness either of abhorrence, fear, or regret. The 
few words she had spoken to him in the midst of the 
fashionable crowd where they had last met. had, she felt, 
effectually freed her from his pursuit henceforth ; and in her 
present frame of mind, with her whole nature softened by 
her love for Miles, she was accustomed to look back rather 
on her own errors of judgment and perception as the fatal 
folly of her own girlhood, as the origin of her misfortunes, 
and to allow the sinister figure of her husband to slink in 
the backgrounds of her memory, something to be shunned 
and left in obscurity. In the wildest and deepest of her 
misery, and when her resolution was highest and sternest, 
there was one steadfast feeling in Gertrude's heart, by which 
she clung in all the tempest of emotion, while the clamour 
was loudest in her storm-tossed heart. It was the inde- 
structible happiness of knowing herself beloved. Nothing 
could take that from her, whatever befell ; life might have 
many more trials, many more deprivations in store for her, 
but it could not deprive her of that — not even change on his 
own part : and she did not think he would change. Very 
early in their acquaintance she had recognized, with the 
pleasure of a kindred disposition, the tranquil stability of 
Miles Challoner's character ; but not even change could alter 
that truth, could efface that blessedness, could deprive her 
of that priceless treasure. She even asked herself, in the 
mood of mournful exultation in which she was, whether she 
could have felt this secret, subtle joy so keenly if she had 
not learned to distinguish the false from the true by such a 
terrible experience ? If this had been a first love, could it 
have been so awfully dear and precious, a consolation so 
priceless, as to be hugged and hidden in her utmost heart ; 
a talisman against misery, a talisman sufficiently powerful to 
subdue the anguish of its own ineffectualness, its own hope- 
lessness 1 Could any girl unversed in the world's way, un- 
skilled in the world's delusions, innocent and ignorant, 
knowing no ill of herself or others, have loved Miles Chal- 
loner as she loved him — this woman who had been brought 
in such close contact with crime, meanness, degradation, who 
had passed from girlhood to womanhood, on the border of 



RECOGNITION. 297 

respectability, with a tolerably uninterrupted look-out, very 
little space intervening over the debateable land of scheming, 
shift?, and general Bohemianism — this woman, whose dearest 
hope was to keep the knowledge of the truth about her — 
her life — her very name — from the man she loved 1 

The task of speaking with Lord Sandilands, of destroying 
the hopes the kind old man cherished for his friend and for 
her, of defending the position she had to take up, for the 
destruction of all the prospect of happiness which life had 
to offer her, was not one to be contemplated with anything 
but intense reluctance. But Gertrude forced herself to the 
contemplation of it, and made up her mind to get the inter- 
view over as soon as possible. She had not forgotten that 
she had promised Miles to see him again, to speak with him 
again, on the subject of the suit he had urged. She knew 
well how impatient he would be ; but while her illness and 
seclusion continued, he would know the fulfilment of her 
promise was not possible. What if she made an effort to go 
down to the drawing-room to-night, and found him there 
— was forced to meet him in the presence of strangers 1 
She could not endure that ; she felt that her nerves, in such 
a trial, would refuse to obey her will. She would write a 
line to him, asking him to remain away from Hardriggs 
until he should hear from her again. There could be no 
harm in that ; but suppose he should be intending to come 
there that evening, the intimation of her wish would reach 
him too late. She rang the bell, and sent her maid for Mrs. 
Bloxam, to whom she propounded the difficulty. 

" I know he will be here," Mrs. Bloxam said ; " Lady 
Belwether has just said so." 

" Then I must write," said Gertrude, " and you must give 
him the note." 

Mrs. Bloxam conveyed the few lines, in which Gertrude 
begged Miles to abstain from appearing in the drawing- 
room after dinner, to the hands of that anxious and almost- 
despairing lover, and he instantly obeyed the behest which 
it contained. Lord Sandilands' illness and need of his 
society furnished an excuse which was not only valid, but 
did him credit with his hostess and Mr. Dean, who was 
pleased to remark that his attention to his noble friend was 
a very gratifying spectacle, very gratifying indeed. When 
Miles rejoined his noble friend he told him most ruefully of 



298 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



the fresh rebuff he had received, and presented a doleful 
aspect anything but exhilarating to an invalid in want of 
cheerful companionship. Lord Sandilands did not seem to 
notice the depressed state of his spirits, but listened to him 
with an air rather of satisfaction than otherwise. 

" Never mind, Miles," he said ; " it's a good sign that she 
did not choose to meet you in the presence of a lot of 
strangers. Have patience, my dear boy, and I promise you, 
on the faith of your old friend, which never failed you yet, 
all will be well." 

Miss Lambert made her appearance that evening in the 
drawing-room at Hardriggs for a short time. She was 
warmly congratulated on her recovery, and had many 
pretty things said to her about her temporary eclipse. She 
even ventured to sing — just one song ; a simple but beautiful 
one, which went to the hearts of the company in general, 
and apparently to the nose of Mr. Dean in particulai*, as 
that dignitary used his handkerchief with prolonged solem- 
nity while the concluding cadence was yet lingering in the 
air. It was agreed on all hands that never had Miss Lambert 
been more completely charming. 

On the day but one after, — a bright, balmy day, when 
the earth looked its best, and the sky its bluest, — one of the 
Hardriggs equipages conveyed Mrs. Bloxam and Miss Lam- 
bert to Lord Sandilands' seaside abode. The visit had been 
duly notified by a message from Mrs. Bloxam, and the ladies 
bad the satisfaction of learning that his lordship was much 
better, and quite able to receive them. They were ushered 
upstairs, and into a sitting-room on the first-floor. The 
room was empty, and the folding-doors which communicated 
with another room were closed. In a few moments they 
opened, and gave admittance to a middle-aged woman, 
plainly dressed, very respectable ; the exact model of all a 
housekeeper ought to be. On her steady arm Lord Sandi- 
lands leaned, and, as he limped slowly towards his visitors 
with extended hand, expressing his pleasure at seeing them, 
Gertrude recognized in the housekeeper Mrs. Bush, and 
Mrs. Bush recognized in the lady whom she had heard an- 
nounced as Miss Lambert the wife of her ci-devant lodger, 
Gilbert Lloyd. 



A MINE IS LAID. 299 



CHAPTER III. 

A MINE IS LAID. 

T) EFUSED ! rejected ! Lord Ticehurst could scarcely 
XI; believe it. " Declined the honour," she said ; that 
was the way she put it. Declined the honour ! "Whish !" 
went the whip over the heads of the roans, who became 
marvellously unsteady at the sound, and reared, and 
plunged, and pulled, and caused the middle-aged groom 
once again to peer over the head of the phaeton more 
nervously and uncomfortably than ever. 

Lord Ticehurst could not understand the experience of 
the morning. The more he thought over it the more prepos- 
terous it appeared to him. Throughout the whole course 
of his life he had never had one wish thwarted. At Eton 
his fag did his exercises^ and at Oxford the dons toadied 
him as dons only can toady ; and in later life he had had 
henchmen innumerable, who had received his every word as 
law. As for this affair with Miss Lambert, he, — well, he 
didn't know ; he had not been so cocksure about it at first, 
when he first began to be spooney on her. She was a 
deuced nice girl, there was no denying that, — clever, and all 
that kind of thing ; sort of person that any fellow might be 
proud of to see sitting at the head of his table, and look 
deuced well at the Opera, and all that. Was not half so 
cocksure when he first began to be spooney ; that was 
perhaps because he was spooney ; fellows always thought 
they were not good enough for the woman they were 
spooney on ; and — not good enough ? that's a great notion ! 
the idea of the Earl of Ticehurst not being good enough for 
— no, he couldn't say anything against her ; she was an 
opera-singer, every one knew, but she was a perfect lady. 
O d — , what a nuisance it was ! Since he had made up his 
mind to it he had begun to look upon it as quite certain, as 
a result about which there could not be the smallest doubt ; 
and now he saw that all his conjectures had been false and 
his plans foundationless. What could be her motive ? No 



300 



tllE EOCK AHEAD. 



question of hoping to hook a larger fish 1 That was absurd. 
Lord Ticehurst reflected with a certain amount of consolation 
that there were very few larger fish than he in the waters 
preserved for matrimonial angling, and of those few none 
were likely to make Miss Lambert an offer. Not any question 
of personal objection 1 Even if such a thing were probable 
to a person in his position, Miss Lambert's manner to him 
had always been courteous, and occasionally cordial. No one 
could have been making mischief about him 1 No, he 
thought not ; he did not go in to be straitlaced, and all that 
kind of thing, any more than any other fellow of his age ; 
but there was nothing that any one could lay hold of and 
make a fuss about ; his name was not mentioned in con- 
junction with any woman's, or anything of that kind that a 
woman might find objectionable in the man who wanted to 
marry her. What, then, could it be 1 Could it be shyness, 
modesty, and all that ? Jove ! he'd never thought of that, 
never looked at it in that light. Could it be possible that 
Miss Lambert had refused him because she did not feel her- 
self up to the mark — didn't think herself equal to the 
position he had proposed to her to occupy ? The notion 
was a very pleasant one to Lord Ticehurst ; it gratified his 
vanity, and it gave him hope. It might come off after all ! 
He had not had much experience of women — not of that 
sort, at least — and it was impossible to make them out ; 
there was never any knowing what to do with them. After 
all, perhaps, she only wanted a little more pressing ; he 
certainly had nipped off rather sharp, without asking her to 
explain, or anything of that kind. He supposed that was 
what fellows usually did, — asked the women " Why," and 
all that sort of thing. " Declined the honour," she said ; 
perhaps if he had given her the chance she would not have 
declined it a second time. He would give her the chance ; 
he would go over again to what's-a-name, old Belwether's 
place, and tell Miss Lambert that he really meant it, and 

that 

As the thought of "what's-a-name, old Belwether's place," 
passed through Lord Ticehurst's mind, simultaneously arose 
therein the very uncomfortable recollection of having seen 
Miles Challoner at the gate. The young nobleman's spirits, 
which had risen rapidly under the roseate influence of his 
hopes, sunk at once to zero when he remembered that 



A MINE IS LAID. 301 

Gilbert Lloyd had told him of the manner in which this man 
Challoner was making " strong running " for Miss Lambert, 
and bade him beware of him as a dangerous rival. Jove ! 
that might account for her declining the honour, and all 
that. Of course it was a ridiculous thing to imagine any 
woman taking a fellow like Chaldecott — Challoner, or what- 
ever they called him — before a man in his position ; but one 
never knew, it was impossible to say ; and — he did not 
know what the deuce to do one way or the other. 

" Princes and women must not be contradicted," says the 
proverb. Young noblemen, or old noblemen for the matter 
of that, with health and wealth, are pretty much in the same 
category. For the first time in his life Lord Ticehurst found 
himself debarred from the fulfilment of a special wish, and 
he raged inwardly and chafed against his destiny. He 
could have cried from sheer spite and vexation ; he stamped 
his foot in his rage, and once more startled the roans out of 
all propriety. He felt that he was morally " cornered ; " 
he did not like to give up all idea of this girl, for whom he 
had a certain liking and a certain passion, and in the pos- 
session of whom he would have had the justification of that 
pride which was perhaps the most thoroughly developed of 
all the various component parts of his character. On the 
other hand, he dared not run the chance of a second re- 
jection, as the news of it might get wind, and he might be 
made to appear ridiculous ; and, like most of his order, 
Lord Ticehurst was more afraid of ridicule than of anything 
else. To be laughed at had always been looked on by him 
as the greatest possible infliction, for he knew that neither 
his position nor his wealth rendered him invulnerable to 
" chaff ; " and he was sufficiently man of the world to feel 
that these advantages in themselves would tempt the aim 
and barb the arrows of the sharpshooters. He could not 
face it out, by Jove he couldn't ! The mere thought of 
being bantered on the subject of his rejection by Miss 
Lambert gave an apoplectic hue to his lordship's cheeks, 
and brought large beads of perspiration on to his forehead. 

" I couldn't stand it," he said half aloud, and forgetting 
the proximity of the serious groom. " 'Gad ! I think I 
should go mad, and that kind of thing. Don't think I'll 
give old Gil the chance of having a crow over me just yet. 
He's sure to ask me how I got on, and all that, and I'd 



302 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

better hold it over for an hour or two. He's rather spiky 
in his chaff, I've noticed lately, Master Gil is ; I don't know 
what's come to him ! " 

So, on further reflection, Lord Ticehurst struck off the 
road leading to Eastbourne, and turned back, tooling the 
roans along the St. Leonards parade, to the immense delight 
of the promenaders there assembled, and finally pulling up 
at the door of the principal hotel in Hastings. Here he 
alighted, and bidding his groom to bring the phaeton round 
at eight in the evening, entered the hotel, ordered an early 
dinner, and strolled out on to the parade. 

A person in Lord Ticehurst's position and of Lord Tice- 
hurst's habits is almost certain to find a number of ac- 
quaintances in every place of anything like pretension to 
fashion which he may visit ; and his lordship had not 
lounged up the promenade for more than a dozen paces ere 
his arrival was known to as many persons. Old Lady 
Spills, who was always seated at the bow-window of her 
lodgings with a powerful opera-glass, marked the young 
nobleman's arrival at the hotel, and immediately called to 
her granddaughter, then resident with her, to get her hat 
and accompany her on the parade as quickly as possible. 
" JSTot that it's of any use," the old lady remarked to her- 
self; "for Julia is as stupid as an owl, and not likely to be 
attractive even to the most innocent of youths, much less 
to a young man like this, who is, no doubt, perfectly able 
to take care of himself." The Duke of Doncaster, a melan- 
choly old man, in a crumpled wig and dyed whiskers, 
wearing the bell-hat, large-checked neckerchief, and cut- 
away green coat of the past generation, was driving his team 
up and down the parade, solemnly and methodically as was 
his usual afternoon practice, and he recognized Lord Tice- 
hurst's presence by jerking his whip-elbow into the air in 
true coachman-like fashion. The sisters Lavrock, of the 
Scandinavian Opera and the nobility's concerts — brave little 
womsn, who in the off-season went round to the different 
watering-places, and made a good deal of money by giving a 
little musical entertainment — blushed and giggled in great 
delight as his good-natured lordship stopped them on the 
promenade, and inquired with unaffected interest after their 
well-doing. That eminent landscape-painter Scumble, E.A., 
who had often met Lord Ticehurst at Carabas House, over 



A MINE is laid; 303 

which mansion he seemed to have the right of free warren, 
happened to be staying at Hastings, partly for the sake of 
studying marine effects, partly for the purpose of pacifying 
Mrs. Scumble, who had but a dull time of it in London ; 
and he tore off his wideawake as he met Lord Ticehurst's 
eye, and pretended to have nothing to do with Mrs. 
Scumble, who at that moment was a little way off, placidly 
bargaining for a shell pincushion. Lastly, Bobby Maitland 
— who had come ashore for two days from Mr. Stack- 
borough's yacht, with the view of meeting his solicitor, and 
settling pecuniary matters during his absence — Bobby 
Maitland, looking over the blind of the coffee-room of the 
Marine Hotel, along which blind he had been thoughtfully 
rubbing his nose, spied his lordship, and announced his dis- 
covery to his friend Stackborough in these nattering terms : 
" By Jove, Haystacks, old man, here's that ass Ticehurst ! " 

'•Haystacks" and "old man" were both terms of en- 
dearment and familiarity. Mr. Stackborough was about 
three-and-twenty, very rich, very foolish, and with an irre- 
pressible yearning for what he called " high society." He 
had chambers in the Albany, splendid horses, a capital 
yacht, and more clothes than any other man in London. 
He was always extensively got-up, and never looked like a 
gentleman. Bobby Maitland, who lived with him and on 
him, could influence him on everything except his wardrobe 
— in that matter he always would have his own way. On 
the present occasion he was elaborately appareled in 
maritime fashion, dark-blue jacket with gilt buttons, very 
open white waistcoat, flap shirt-collar, trousers tight to the 
knee, then loose and flapping, black oilskin-hat with blue 
ribbon. Mr. Stackborough generally suited his language 
as far as possible to his style of costume. When that was 
horsey he talked turf, now he talked sea ; consequently he 
said — 

" Ticehurst, eh 1 Where does he hail from ? " 

" How the deuce should I know ! " replied Bobby. 
" He's only j ust come in sight." 

" T'other craft in company, of course ? " suggested Mr. 
Stackbrother. " He's always under convoy, Ticehurst is ! 
T'other craft's close by, I suppose, or at all events in the 
offing." And Mr. Stackborough peered from under his 
hand at his friend as though scanning the horizon. 



304 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



" Look here, Haystacks, old man ! " said Bobby Maitland 
thoughtfully ; " you must moderate your transports, you 
must indeed. There's too much of this bold-smuggler 
business about you — a deal too much. I daresay it's a kind 
of gaff that takes with some people, but it don't with me, 
and so you may as well drop it. It isn't good style either ; 
so drop it, old flick, and tell me in the Queen's English 
what you mean." 

Mr. Stackborough wriggled uneasily in the maritime suit 
and blushed. " All right," he said, after a minute's pause, 
"I'll take care. Thank you for telling me, Bobby. What 
I meant to say was, wasn't Lloyd there 1 He's always with 
Ticehurst, you know." 

" 0, I understand now ; No ; Ticehurst seems to be by 
himself for a wonder. No doubt Lloyd's close at hand, 
though ; he never lets my lord go far without him." 

" Shall we 'bout ship and — I mean, shall we go out and 
speak to him 1 " asked Mr. Stackborough. It was so difficult 
to resist the influence of the maritime garments. 

" Well, yes ; there's no harm," said Bobby, knowing his 
young friend was dying to speak to and be seen speaking to 
a recognized " swell." 

So Mr. Stackborough put on the glazed hat with the blue 
ribbon, and they strolled into the street. Now, though 
Lord Ticehurst did not much affect Bobby Maitland, and 
had a great contempt for Mr. Stackborough, he had such a 
horror of being alone and being thrown on his own resources 
for amusement, that, as soon as he saw these gentlemen 
approaching, he brightened up, and received them with a 
warmth which completely captivated Mr. Stackborough. 
Bobby Maitland was older and less enthusiastic. He dis- 
liked Ticehurst ; and as he knew there was nothing to be 
got out of his lordship, he always spoke to him with charm- 
ing frankness. 

" We could scarcely believe it was you, Etchingham," 
said he, after the ordinary salutations had been exchanged. 

" O, ah ! " replied his lordship, " didn't expect to find me 
in this place, eh ? " 

" Well, no, perhaps one wouldn't have thought of finding 
you here. Nothing going on that you can understand — 
horses, I mean, and that kind of thing. But that was not 
what I meant." 



A MINE IS LAID. 305 

"What did you mean, then?" asked his lordship, some- 
what crossly, for he understood and appreciated the 
sneer. 

" Well, we didn't think you were ever let out without 
your dry-nurse — Lloyd, don't you know 1 Don't be angry 
old fellow, it's only my chaff ! '' 

" It's a deuced bad style of chaff," said Lord Ticehurst, 
who had grown very white, and whose lips trembled as he 
spoke, — " a deuced bad style of chaff ; and I'll trouble you 
not to try it on me, Mr. Maitland ! " 

" ' Mr.' Maitland ! Come, that be hanged ! " said Bobby, 
who saw that he had gone a little too far. " I'm very sorry 
if I've offended you, Etchingham, and I apologize. I can't 
say more." 

The good-natured young man accepted the apology at 
once, and the three walked on together. Lord Ticehurst, 
then explaining that he was only in the town for a few 
hours, and that he had ordered a solitary dinner at the 
Queen's Hotel, was easily persuaded to let Mr. Stackborough 
(who was too delighted to fetch and carry for a lord) go and 
countermand it, while his lordship agreed to dine with his 
new-found acquaintances at the Marine. So, to the intense 
delight of Mr. Stackborough, they strolled up and down 
the parade, listening to the band, looking after the pretty 
women, and criticising the horses. " Haystacks' " conver- 
sation became almost unintelligible during this walk ; for 
Lord Ticehurst being eminently horsey, and the talk run- 
ning on the breeding and look of horses, Mr. Stackborough 
would, under ordinary circumstances, have turned on the 
turf tap, and drawn his idioms from the stable ; but the 
maritime clothes still from time to time asserted their in- 
fluence, and the result was that the unfortunate youth got 
into a series of linguistic knots which he could not untie, 
and with which no one could assist him. 

The dinner at the Marine was a success. Boffham, who 
keeps the hotel, had been chef to Count Krammetsvogel, of 
the Hanoverian embassy, in former days, and had turned 
out many excellent official dinners, of which Lord Tice- 
hurst's father had partaken. When he heard that the 
young lord was to be a guest of one of his guests, Boffham 
went himself to the kitchen, and showed that neither Time 
nor the gout had robbed his hand of its cunning. The 



306 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

wines too — notably some Chateau Yquem and some Stein- 
berger Cabinet, which bad been bought by Boffham out of 
the Krammetsvogel cellar when the count was recalled — 
were delicious ; so delicious, that many bottles were drunk, 
and the hearts of the drinkers were warmed, and their 
tongues loosened. Something which Bobby Maitland had 
said to him when they first met that day had stuck in Lord 
Ticshurst's throat. He had tried to swallow it, but the 
attempt had been unsuccessful. Under the influence of the 
wine be felt he must mention it — he could see no reason 
why he should not. 

" Bobby ! " be said, as they were sipping their claret, 
" my horses will be round in a minute ; but I want to say 
two words to you before I go. — Don't you move, Mr. 
Stacks," — Stackborougb made a kind of blundering attempt 
to rise, — " don't you move, there's nothing secret or private," 
— here Lord Ticehurst looked long and earnestly at the 
wick of the candle close by him, then proceeded — " or at 
least, if there is, you're far too good a fellow, Stacks, to — 
to — you know what I mean. — So do you, Bobby." 

"All right, Etchingham, old boy, I know," said Mr. 
Maitland. " "What do you want to say ? " Mr. Maitland 
bad to repeat his question, Lord Ticehurst having again 
become absorbed in the contemplation of the candle. 
" What do you want to say ? " 

"What do I want to say?" said his lordship, after a 
pause — " ah, that's just it ! I wonder — 0, 1 know ! Don't 
you know when you folks first met me to-day, you said 
something, Bobby — something about Lloyd 1 " 

" Yes, I recollect — what then ? " 

" You asked me where my nurse was, or something of 
that sort, didn't you 1 " 

" I think I did." 

"Ah ! just tell me, like a good fellow — is that the way 
men talk about me and Lloyd ? " 

" What way ? " 

" Do they say that he — that I — that he's like what you 
said — my nurse 1 " 

" They say you daren't call your soul your own without 
his leave. That you never move hand or foot without him ; 
some say he washes you and parts your hair; but that's 



A MINE IS LAID. 307 

their way of putting it. What they mean is, that he's your 
master, and you're his most obedient." 

" And do you think Lloyd knows they say this ? " 

" Knows they say it ! " repeated Bobby Maitland, with a 
loud vinous laugh ; " knows they say it ! why, he says it 
himself ; boasts of it ! " 

" The deuce he does ! " said Lord Ticehurst, rising with 
an unsteady gait. " That must be stopped ! There are 
some things that a man can stand ; and there are some 

things he My carriage. Thank you ! — Good-night, Mr. 

Stacks ; very glad to have looked you up. — Good-night, 
Bobby ; see you at Doncaster, I suppose 1 No ! well, then 
— never mind. — Right, Martin ! " and his lordship dashed 
off at a tremendous pace, while the serious groom, who had 
seen his master reel on the phaeton-step, looked more 
serious than ever as he jumped up behind. 

When the other two gentlemen returned to their room, 
Mr. Stackborough said, " He didn't half like what you 
said about Lloyd just now. Shouldn't wonder if there was 
a row when he gets home." 

" Serve Master Gil deuced well right," said Maitland ; 
" I've owed him one for a long time, and now I think I've 
paid him. Teach him to give himself airs over me next 
time we meet in the ring." 

" Devilish pleasant, gentlemanly fellow is Etchinghurst," 
said Mr. Stackborough, steadying himself by holding on to 
the table. 

Bobby Maitland regarded him with a smile. " His name 
is Etchingham, not Etchinghurst ; but you're not sufficiently 
intimate with him to call him anything but Lord Ticehurst. 
Haystacks, dear old boy, you've had too much wine ; have 
a tumbler of soda, plain, and go to 



There was no reason for the serious groom's apprehensions, 
so far as the safety of his person was concerned. It is a 
received axiom that the effects of intoxication are increased 
when gentlemen labouring under them are exposed to the 
influence of the air ; and the groom's perturbation was 
probably based upon this theory. He had not, however, 
probably made allowance for the fact — which possibly had 
never come within his ken — that when the mind is actively 



308 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

at work it becomes an admirable counter-irritant to the 
influence of the wine. That feeble nonsense of the hic- 
cupping toper of the past generation relative to the drowning 
of dull Care in bowls was as void of reason as of rhythm. 
That men in good spirits will have those spirits made livelier 
by good drink in good company is intelligible enough ; but 
dull Care — whatever he may have suffered in the three- 
bottle days — declines to be drowned or in any way got rid 
of by such a quantity of liquor as is at the present time 
drank in society. The confirmation of his suspicions about 
Gilbert Lloyd, which Bobby Maitland had communicated 
with so much charming frankness to Lord Ticehurst, had 
had a singularly sobering influence on the young nobleman. 
The anger arising in his heart seemed to have chased away 
the fumes which had been obscuring his brain ; and after 
he had been five minutes on the road he was in as good 
condition as he ever was — which, perhaps, is not saying 
much — to think the matter calmly through. It was a 
lovely night ; the roans, knowing they were on their home- 
ward journey, stepped out splendidly and refrained from 
indulging in any of the capers and antics which had charac- 
terized their morning's performance ; and Lord Ticehurst, 
getting them well in hand, settled himself down to think 
over all he had heard, and to endeavour to arrive at som& 
definite conclusion before the end of his drive. 

Was it what we have no adequate expression for, but 
what the French call the vin triste, that was exercising its 
malign influence over the young man 1 Had his " potations 
pottle deep " but resulted in stirring up dull Care instead 
of drowning him ? Had Boffham's Chateau Yquem and 
Steinberger Cabinet an effect exactly opposite to that of the 
waters of Lethe ? Certain it is, that as Lord Ticehurst 
rolled rapidly homewards his memory, which very seldom 
troubled hitn, was actively at work, and his reflections were 
of anything but a pleasant character. 

So they said that he was a mere child in Gilbert Lloyd's 
hands, did they 1 — that he dare not call his soul his own ; 
that he had no will, no opinion, — chaffed, and said Lloyd 
was his dry-nurse, did they ? Pleasant that, by Jove ! — to 
have things like that said about you by fellows to whom you 
had always been civil and polite, and all that kind of thing 
— more than that, hospitable, and letting them stand in 



A MINE IS LAID. 309 

•with good things, and putting them on to everything you 
knew. And they went about and said this — not before 
your face, of course ; they would not do that ; but thought 
it before your face, and went about and said it as soon as 
your back was turned. Made you their laughing-stock and 
their butt ; poked their fun at you all the time they were 
eating your dinners, and made game of you while they 

borrowed your money. It was d d unfriendly and 

blackguard conduct ; that's what it was. And Bobby 
Maitland was as bad as any of them — worse, for he would 
never have heard of it but for him. They all thought he 
was a fool, and Bobby must have thought so too, sneering 
about him and Gilbert Lloyd, and pretending to think he 
would not notice it. He would let them see pretty sharp 
he was not such a fool as they took him for ; let them see 
he knew how they laughed at and chaffed him. Next time 
any of them wanted a fifty for a fortnight, that would be 
the time. They should laugh the wrong side of their 
mouths then, he would take care. Called himself a gentle- 
man too, did Bobby Maitland, and gave himself airs because 
he was a peer's son. Why, damme, that other chap, that 
poor fellow, Haystacks, or whatever his name was, with all 
his ridiculous nonsense about his get-up and all that, he was 
more of a gentleman than Bobby Maitland. He looked 
quite queer and uncomfortable, Haystacks did, when 
Maitland was going on all that chaff about the nurse. 

About the nurse 1 That riled him more than anything 
else. " How was it he was let out without his nurse ? " 
That's what Maitland had said. As he thought of that 
speech Lord Ticehurst kicked out against the splashboard 
in front of him, startled the roans into a gallop, and woke 
the groom from an elysian dream of eating boiled beans 
and bacon in the back-parlour of a public-house which was 
his own. And when he had asked if Gilbert knew about 
the chaff that was going on, Maitland said he did, and, more 
than that, had started it and laughed at it himself. Could 
that be true 1 He could scarcely think that ; he had been 
so doosid kind to old Gil, and doosid fond of him, and done 
all sorts of things for him one way or the other, and he did 
not believe old Gil would go against him in that way. 
Fellows are always talking about ingratitude and that kind 
of thing, but he did not think any one would be such a 



310 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

thorough-paced duffer as to go in against a fellow who had 
shown him nothing but kindness ever since he had known 
him. Ever since he had known him 1 Well, that was not 
so long ago, when he came to think about it, but it seemed 
like his whole life. He thought with an odd kind of in- 
credulous wonder on that portion of his life anterior to his 
acquaintance with Gilbert Lloyd. The Plater-Dobbs regime 
seemed like a dream. He was a vulgar old cad, the Plater, 
but he would not have played double, he would not have 
allowed any of the fellows to chaff. No fellows had ever 
been allowed to chaff him, even at Eton — Eton, hey presto ! 
At that reminiscence the clouds rolled away, and scenes of 
bygone time and the actors in them, unthought of for years, 
rose before the young man's mind. Some of those fellows 
who had been with him at Eton, and were now doing so 
well and making such stir in the world — Brackenbury, who 
had made such a hit in the House, and who, everybody said, 
would be Al some of these days ; and Graves, who had 
written a devilish clever book about something ; and 
Hammond, who was under-secretary in one of those office- 
places down at Whitehall, and who the newspapers said was 
a rising man, and all that. Lord ! he recollected when he 

first went to Eton, his old governor took him, and 

What a crowd there was when they buried his governor in 
the family-vault at Etchingham ! He recollected Lord 
Tantallon the Premier standing at the foot of the grave 
after the service, and looking in, with the tears running 
down his face. No end of official swells came down to see 
the last of their old colleague. He recollected seeing the 
great black marble top of the tomb, which had been taken 
off, lying on its side among the weeds ; and he remembered 
the smell of the newly-turned earth, and the trodden turf, 
and he could see just as plainly as on the day itself the men 
from the London newspapers bending over to read the in- 
scription on the coffin. Poor old governor ! he was a clever 
fellow, and was awfully respectable and respected. He 
would not think much of the life his son was leading, 
mixed up with horses and betting-people and jockeys, and 
all that kind of thing. Whew ! it could not be helped, he 
supposed. It was too late to change it. Steady there ! 
Arrived ! 

When Lord Ticehurst entered the rooms in the hotel 



A MINE IS LAID. 311 

■which he occupied conjointly with Gilbert Lloyd, he found 
that gentleman asleep on the sofa, with a decanter of brandy 
on a small table by his side. The decanter was half-empty ; 
and when Gilbert, awaking at the noise made by his friend's 
arrival, turned round, his face, especially round the eyes, 
had a strained, flushed look, and his voice, when he began 
to speak, was rather thick and husky. 

" Hallo ! " he said, raising himself on his elbow, and shad- 
ing his eyes with his other hand, "you've got back ! " 

" Yes," replied his lordship ; " here I am ! " 

"Perhaps the next time you are going to stop out to 
dinner you will have the goodness to say so." 

" Don't be cross, old man ; you knew I was going, fast 
enough." 

" I knew you were going out to luncheon, but there 
was nothing said about dinner, I believe ; and as to being 
cross, it's enough to make a fellow savage, having had to 
cool his heels about here for an hour and a half, waiting 
dinner for a man who never came ; and then to sit down 
to a lot of stuff eooked to rags, half cold, and quite un- 
eatable." 

" Sorry for that, Gil," said Lord Ticehurst with unim- 
paired good-humour ; " very sorry, but you should not have 
waited." 

" Oh, I like that ! " said Lloyd ; " and suppose your lord- 
ship had not had your dinner, and had come in when I 
had half-finished mine, you would have been pleased, wouldn't 
you ! " 

" I don't suppose ' my lordship,' as you call me, would 
have cared one straw about it. What a rum fellow you 
are, Gil ! What's the matter with you to-night, that you 
are going on in this way 1 " 

" Going on in what way ? I merely suggested that it 
would have been pleasanter if you had said you would 
not be back to dinner, and " 

" But 1 didn't know that I should not. I had no inten- 
tion of stopping when I went away. Can't you understand ! " 

" O yes, I understand ! Chapeau has, chapeau has I 
However, that's no matter now. I ought to have known 
that the young lady would suggest your stopping there — 
that the old Belwethers would be delighted to receive a 
person of your lordship's quality, and that " 



312 THE BOCK AHEAD. 

" There, you may drop that silliness as soon as you like. 
It's very funny, I daresay ; but it's all thrown away, be- 
cause I didn't stop at Hardriggs after all." 

" The deuce you didn't ! Why, where did you dine, 
then ? " 

" At the hotel at Hastings, with Bobby Maitland and 
that young fellow he's always about with now — Hay- 
stacks." 

" I know," growled Gilbert. He hated Maitland, and 
half-despised him, as men do their unsuccessful rivals. 
" What on earth made you dine with them ? " 

" Well, I don't know," said the earl, blushing a little, in 
spite of vigorous attempts to prevent it and look uncon- 
cerned. " I — I had stopped later there than I intended at 
Hardriggs, and I thought you would have dined, and so I 
put up at Hastings, and those fellows saw me and asked me 
to dinner." 

" And you went, deuced Samaritan-like and benevolent, 
and all that, I declare ! That fellow Stackborough will be 
set up for life ; there will be no holding him, now that he 
has once dined in company with a real live earl." 

" Well, I don't know ; Mr. Stackborough seemed to me 
to behave like a gentleman." 

" O yes ; but you like a fellow who bows down before 
you, Etchingham, we all know that; and it's natural 
enough. However, that's neither here nor there. What 
about the object of your visit to Hardriggs? You saw the 
young lady ? " 

" Yes, I saw her." 

" And you carried out your intention 1 " 

" What intention ? " asked Lord Ticehurst, summoning 
up courage, and looking his friend full in the face. And 
then Gilbert knew for certain, what he had decidedly 
anticipated, that Lord Ticehurst had been rejected by 
Gertrude. 

" What intention ? " he replied, with a sneer already dawn- 
ing on his face ; " why, the intention of proposing to Miss 
— what does she call herself? — Miss Lambert." 

" Yes," said Lord Ticehurst quietly, " I carried out that 
intention." 

" Well, and we are to ring the joy-bells, and to roast the 
whole ox, and set the barrels of ale flowing, and order the 



A MINE IS LAID. 313 

bishop to be in readiness at St. George's, and select the new- 
carriages, and have Etchingham new furnished. And when 
are we to do all this t " 

"Not just now, at all events," said Lord Ticehurst. 
" First catch your hare, don't you know 1 " and his lordship 
tried to look knowing — a process in which he failed 
sublimely. 

" Why, you don't mean to say that " 

"I mean to say that I proposed to Miss Lambert — you 
know her name fast enough — and she refused me." 

" Refused you ! " screamed Gilbert with admirably- 
assumed astonishment; "refused you, — the opera-singer, 
the tragedy-queen, the Princess Do Re has refused my lord 
with his thousands and his tens of thousands ! The world 
is coming to an end ! People will next question the value 
of an hereditary legislature. You astound me ! " 

" I'll tell you what, Lloyd," said Lord Ticehurst sulkily, 
" I wish you to drop that style of chaff ; I don't see the fun 
of it." 

'■ You never saw the fun of anything, Etchingham ; it is 
not your metier ; Providence has ordained otherwise. It's 
for us poor devils to see the fun that you big swells make 
for us." 

Rage swelled within Lord Ticehurst's heart as he listened 
to these words, which were so eminently corroborative of 
what Bobby Maitland had said to him, and of what he 
had thought to himself on his homeward drive. But he 
controlled himself, and said : 

" Well, what I see or what I don't see don't matter 
much just now. Perhaps I see more than some people 
think I do ; more than I give tongue about, that's certain. 
However, I don't care about being chaffed on that subject, 
and so please drop it." 

" Poor old boy ! " said Lloyd, with an elaborate affecta- 
tion of compassion ; " of course he's very sore, that's natural 
enough : and of course it comes much harder to a fellow in 
his position, who thinks that he has only to lie under the 
wall and the ripe cherries will tumble into his mouth, to find 
that they sometimes hang on the stalk and won't tumble. 
It puts me in mind of the little stories in one syllable that 
we used to learn at school . ' There was once a small boy, 
and he cried for the moon, and when ' " 



314 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

" D — n it, sir, -will you stop ? " cried Lord Ticehurst, 
angered beyond all patience. " Look here, Lloyd, you and 
I have been friends for a long time ; but if you go on in this 
way I shall " 

" "What ? " interrupted Gilbert, turning quickly on him. 

" Cut the whole concern, stock, lock, and barrel," said his 
lordship, " and part from you for ever." 

The two men stood confronting each other ; Lord Tice- 
hurst flushed and heated, Lloyd wonderfully pale and calm, 
and only betraying agitation in the twitchings of the muscles 
of his mouth. He was the first to speak. 

" Part from me for ever, eh 1 " he said in slow deliberate 
tones, each word clipping out from between his thin tight 
lips. " O no, you .wouldn't do that ! You are not very 
wise, Lord Ticehurst, but you would not be such a fool as to 
quarrel with or part from the man who has made you what 
you are. Ah, you may stare and pretend to be astonished, 
but I repeat, who has made you what you are. And you 
need not come down upon me, as you are going to — I see it ! 
— with the whole long story of your birth and position and 
status, and all the rest of it. I know all that from Debrett ; 
and still I stick to my text, — that I made you what you 
are ! The time has come — you have brought it about, not 
I ; I could have gone on for ever as we were — but the time 
has come for plain speaking ; and I say that whatever you 
are, and whatever you may be thought of in the world, you 
owe to me, to me ; without whom you would have remained 
the unformed cub you were when I found you in the hands 
of that old duffer, Plater Dobbs ! " 

The prospect of a row with his pupil — not a separation, of 
course, but a brisk breeze to freshen up the tamely-flowing 
current of their ordinary life — had often occurred to Gilbert 
Lloyd. He had thought over calmly what should be his 
conduct under such circumstances, and he had determined 
upon using the strongest possible " bounce," and acting in 
the most offensive and most truculent manner. His re- 
membrance of Lord Ticehurst's behaviour in the quarrel 
with the Frenchman, M. de Prailles, at Baden, prompted 
him to this line of action, and he found it was the correct 
one. Lord Ticehurst did not knock him down, or fling a 
chair at him, or take any other prompt and decisive step. 
His cheek flushed angrily, certainly, but he only said : 



PERPLEXITY. 315 

" Major Dobbs might have been a duffer, as you say he 
was, but at all events he did not pitch into people who were 
kind to him, didn't blackguard them before their faces, as 
some people do, or what's worse, make game of them behind 
their backs." 

He laid such stress on this last sentence that Gilbert 
Lloyd looked hard at him, and said, " Make game of you 
behind your back ! What do you mean by that 1 " 

" What I say," said Lord Ticehurst ; " chaffin' about my 
not being able to do anything without asking you, and you 
being my dry-nurse, and all that kind of thing ! " 

" Ah, ha ! " said Gilbert Lloyd ; " you haven't dined with 
our friend Bobby Maitland for nothing ! That's his stab, 
I'll swear. Now look here, Ticehurst, you've talked about 
our parting, and I never let a man threaten me twice. So 
part we will. We must wait over Doncaster, because there 
are some things coming off there in which we are mutually 
interested ; but after that I'll square up all the accounts and 
hand over everything to you." 

He looked hard at his pupil as he said these words, 
expecting that the announcement would evoke a burst of 
protestations and disavowals. But Lord Ticehurst merely 
said " Very well ; all right ; " and took up his candle and 
left the room. 



CHAPTER IV 

PERPLEXITY. 

LOBD SANDILANDS was looking and feeling ill and 
feeble, and was mainly occupied, as he hobbled across 
the not-magnificently-proportioned drawing-room of that 
most desirable lodging-house, with an unrivalled view of the 
Esplanade, in so putting down and moving his feet as to 
cause himself the least possible pain, when he came, leaning 
on the arm of his housekeeper, to meet Mrs. Bloxam and 
Miss Lambert. But he was a man of too quick perception 
at all times, and his mind had been dwelling of late with so 
much anxiety upon Gertrude and her interests, that he was 
additionally keen in remarking every incident in which she 



316 TIIE ROCK AHEAD. 

was concerned. As he put out his disengaged hand and 
took Gertrude's, he glanced from her face to that of the 
housekeeper, and back to hers again, and saw that each 
recognized the other. 

" You know Mrs. Bush ? " he asked, still holding 
Gertrude's hand in one of his, still leaning with the other 
on Mrs. Bush's arm. 

" Mrs. Bush and I have met before," Gertrude answered 
calmly ; " but she does not know my stage name. I am a 
singer, Mrs. Bush," she added ; " and my stage name is 
Lambert." 

" 0, indeed, ma'am ! " said Mrs. Bush, in a singularly un- 
sympathetic voice, and with an expression which said pretty 
plainly that she did not think it signified "much what the 
speaker called herself. — " Shall I put your lordship in the 
chair near the window 1 " 

" Yes, yes," said Lord Sandilands testily ; and then he 
added, with the perversity of age and illness, "and where 
did you know Miss Keith, Mrs. Bush ? " He seated him- 
self as he spoke, drew the skirts of his gray dressing-gown 
over his knees, and again looked from one to the other. 
Mrs. Bloxam, to whom the scene had absolutely no meaning, 
stood by in silence. Gertrude was very calm, very pale, and 
her eyes shone with a disdainful, defiant light, as they had 
shone on the fatal day of which this meeting so vividly re- 
minded her. Mrs. Bush smiled, a dubious kind of smile, 
and rubbed her hands together very slowly and deliberately, 
as she answered : 

"If you please, my lord, I didn't never know a Miss 
Keith. It were when the young lady was Mrs. Lloyd as 
she come to my house at Brighton." 

" When the young lady was Mrs. Lloyd ! " repeated Lord 
Sandilands in astonishment, and now including Mrs. Bloxam, 
who looked extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable in the 
searching gaze he directed towards the housekeeper and 
Gertrude. " What does this mean i " 

" I will explain it to you," said Gertrude firmly but very 
gently, and bending over him as she spoke ; " but there is 
no occasion to detain Mrs. Bush." The tone and manner of 
her words were tantamount to a dismissal, and so Mrs. 
Bush received them. She immediately retreated to the 
■door, with an assumption of not feeling the smallest curiosity 



PERPLEXITY. 317 

concerning the lady with whom she was thus unexpectedly 
brought into contact, and left the room, murmuring an 
assurance that she should be within call when his lordship 
might want her. A few moments' pause followed her 
departure. The astonishment and vague uneasiness with 
which Lord Sandilands had heard what Mrs. Bush had said 
kept him silent, while Gertrude was agitated and puzzled — 
the first by the imminent danger of discovery of her 
carefully-kept secret, and the second by hearing Lord Sandi- 
lands allude to her as " INliss Keith." When she thought 
over this strange and critical incident in her life afterwards, 
it seemed to her that something like a perception of the 
truth about to be imparted to her came into her mind as 
Lord Sandilands spoke. Mrs. Bloxam experienced a sensa- 
tion unpleasantly akin to threatened fainting. What was 
coming 1 Must all indeed be told? Must her conduct be 
put in its true light before both Gertrude and Lord Sandi- 
lands 1 Could she not escape either of the extremes which, 
in her mental map of the straits in which she found herself, 
she had laid down ? But she was a strong woman by 
nature, and a quiet, self-repressed woman by habit, and in 
the few moments' interval of silence she did not faint, but 
sat down a little behind Lord Sandilands, and with her face 
turned away from the light. As for the old nobleman him- 
self, the mere shock of the dim suspicion, the vague possi- 
bility which suggested itself, shook his composure severely, 
through all the restraint which his natural manliness and 
the acquired impassiveness of good breeding imposed. 
Gertrude was the first to speak. She stood in her former 
attitude, slightly leaning over him, and he sat, his head back 
against the chair, and his keen, gray, anxious eyes raised te- 
ller handsome, haughty face. 

" You sent for me, my dear lord, my good friend," she- 
said, — and there was a tone in the rich, sweet voice which 
the old man had never heard in it before, and in which his 
ear caught and carried to his heart the echo of one long 
silent and almost forgotten, — "and I have come ; in the 
first place to see you, to know how you are, and to satisfy 
myself that this illness has had nothing alarming in it. In 
the second place, that I may hear all you mean to say to 
me ; I know about what," — her eyes dropped and her colour 
rose — '• Mrs. Bloxam has told me ; she has fully explained 



318 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

all your kindness, all your goodness and generosity to me. 
Will you te]l me all you intended to say to me, and let me 
say what I meant to say to you, just as if Mrs. Bush had 
never called me by that strange name in your hearing, and 
then I will explain all." The lustrous earnestness of her 
face rendered it far more beautiful than Lord Sandilands 
had ever before seen it. Her mother had never looked at 
him with that purposeful expression, with that look which 
told of sorrow and knowledge, and the will and resolution 
to live them down. 

" I will do anything you wish, my dear," said the old 
nobleman ; and it was remarkable that he discarded in that 
moment all the measured courtesy of manner which he had 
hitherto sedulously preserved, and adopted in its stead the 
deep and warm interest, the partial judgment, the protecting 
tone of his true relationship to her. " Sit here beside me, 
and listen. I have some painful things to say, but they 
will soon be said ; and I hope — I hope happy days are in 
store for you ; " but his face was clouded, and doubt, even 
dread, expressed itself in his voice. Gertrude did not exactly 
obey him. Instead of taking a seat, she placed herself on 
her knees beside his chair ; and in this attitude she listened 
to his words. 

" I know how it is with you and Miles Challoner, my 
dear, and Miles is dearer to me than any person in the world 
except one, — and that one is you." 

" I ! " said Gertrude, amazed. " I dearer to you than 
Miles Challoner, your old friend's child ! " 

" Yes," he said, with a faint smile, " for you are my own 
child, Gertrude ; that is what I sent for you to tell you, and 
I want to make you happy if I can." So saying, the old 
man took her bent head between his hands, and kissed her. 
Gertrude did not evince any violent emotion — she turned 
extremely pale, and her eyes filled with tears ; but she did 
not say anything for a little while, and she afterwards won- 
dered at the quietness with which the revelation was made 
and received. She was not even certain that she had been very 
much surprised. Mrs. Bloxam rose, opened the window 
stepped out upon the balcony, and carefully closed the 
window behind her. During a considerable time she might 
have been observed by the numerous promenaders on the 
Esplanade, leaning over the railing, which was more orna- 



PERPLEXITY. 319 

mental than solid, in an attitude of profound abstraction. 
By those within the room her very existence was forgotten 
until, in the course of their mutual interrogation, her name 
came to be mentioned. Still kneeling beside him, but now 
with her head resting against his breast, and one long thin 
white hand laid tenderly upon the bright masses of her chest- 
nut hair, Gertrude heard from her father the story of her 
mother's brief happy life and early death ; — and the sternest 
might have forgiven the old man the unintentional decep- 
tion which was self-delusion, which made him tell his 
daughter how only that early death had prevented his 
making Gertrude Gauthier his wife. For the first time he 
realized now in the keenness of his longing, in the misery 
of his dreaded powerlessness to secure the happiness of his 
child, the full extent of the injury inflicted upon her by her 
illegitimate birth. 

" I know," he said, " that Miles loves you, and I think 
you love him, and I know you would be happy. I have 
lived long enough in the world, and seen enough of it, to 
know how rarely one can say that with common sense and 
justice of any two human beings. Tell me, Gertrude, why 
it is that you have refused Miles, — why it is that you seem 
determined not to let me smooth away all obstacles to your 
marrying him ? " 

The conversation had lasted long, and had embraced many 
subjects, before it reached this point. Gertrude had under- 
gone much and varying emotion, but she had not lost her 
calmness, partly because of her exceptional strength of 
mind and body, and partly because she never suffered herself 
to forget the danger of over-excitement to Lord Sandilands. 
She had listened quietly to the story of her mother (the idea 
of actually learning about her own parentage, and being able 
to realize it, was quite new to her — and abstract sentiment 
was not in Gertrude's way), and had rendered to it the 
tribute of silent tears. She had heard her father tell how 
he had first recognised her at Lady Carabas' concert, and 
how he had felt the strong instinctive interest in which he 
had never believed, and which he had never practically ex- 
perimented in, arise at the sight of her ; how he had found 
first with misgiving, and afterwards with increasing pleasure, 
ratified and approved by his conscience because of his know- 
ledge of Miles Challoner's tastes and character that his 



320 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

young friend and companion was attached to her. She had 
heard him tell how he had watched the ill-success of Lord 
Ticehurst's suit with pleasure, and how he had won Miles to 
confide to him his hopes and plans, and encouraged him to 
hope for success, and then had been induced by her refusal 
of Miles and his belief that that refusal was dictated by 
disinterested regard for Challoner's worldly interests, and 
in no degree by her own feelings, to take the resolution of 
telling her all the truth — upon which resolution he was now 
acting. 

So far Gertrude had been wonderfully composed. Her 
father had said to her all he had urged with himself, when 
he had been first assailed by misgivings that his old friend 
would have resented his endeavouring to bring about a 
marriage between Miles and a woman to whom the disad- 
vantage of illegitimate birth attached ; and she had assented, 
adding that while she only knew herself utterly obscure, 
she had felt and acted upon the sense of her own inferiority. 
The conversation had strayed away from Gertrude's early 
life — the father met his acknowledged daughter for the first 
time as a woman, and they made haste to speak of present 
great interests. Mrs. Bloxam might have been quite easy 
in her mind about the amount of notice her share in any of 
the transactions of the past would be likely to excite. But 
now, when Lord Sandilands pleaded earnestly the cause of 
Miles Challoner, and in arguing it argued in favour of the 
weakness of Gertrude's own heart, her fortitude gave way, 
and a full and overwhelming knowledge of the bitterness 
of her fate rushed in upon her soul. The veil fell from her 
eyes ; she knew herself for the living lie she was ; she 
realized that the unjustifiable compact she had made with 
her husband was a criminal, an accursed convention, bearing 
more and more fruit of bitterness and shame and punish- 
ment, as her father unfolded the scheme of a bright and 
happy future which he had formed for her. 

" If he had been any other than Miles Challoner," she 
had said to Mrs. Bloxam, she would have married him 
would have incurred the risk for rank and money — or she 
had thought so, had really believed it of herself. What had 
possessed her with such an idea 1 "What had made her con- 
template in herself a creature so lost, so utterly, coldly 
wicked ? It was so long since she had permitted herself to 



PERPLEXITY. 321 

think of her real position ; she had 'deliberately blinded, 
voluntarily stultified her mind for so long, that she had 
ceased to feel that she was playing a part as fictitious off, 
as any she performed on, the stage. But now, as her father's 
voice went on, speaking lovingly, hopefully, telling her 
how conventionalities should be disregarded and wealth 
supplied in her interests ; telling her she need have no fear 
in the case of such a man as Miles — had he not known him 
all his life 1 — of any late regret or after reproach ; now the 
tide of anguish rushed over her, and with choking sobs she 
implored him to desist. 

" Don't, don't ! " she said. " You don't know — O my 
God ! — you don't know — and how shall I ever tell you 1 
There is another reason, ten thousand times stronger ; all 
the others I gave were only pretences, anything to keep 
him from suspecting, from finding out the truth ; there is a 
reason which makes it altogether impossible." 

"Another reason ! What is it? Tell me at once — tell 
me," said Lord Sandilands; and he raised himself in his 
chair, and held her by the shoulders at arms' length from 
him. Dread, suspicion, pain were in his face ; and under 
the influence of strong emotion, which reflected itself in her 
features, the father and daughter, with all the difference of 
colouring and of form, were wonderfully like each other. 

" I will tell you," she said ; but she shut her eyes, and 
then hid them with her hand while she spoke, shrinking 
from his gaze. "I will tell you. I am not free to be 
Miles Challoner's wife. I am married to another man." 

" Married ! You married ? " 

" Yes," she said, " I am married. Your housekeeper 
knows me as a married woman. The name she called me 
by is my real name. You know the man who is my hus- 
band, unhappy wretch that I am ! " 

" Who is he 1 " said Lord Sandilands, hoarsely, his nerve- 
less hands falling from her shoulders as he spoke. She 
looked at him, was alarmed at the paleness of his face, and 
rose hurriedly from her knees. 

" You are ill," she said. " I will go " But he caught 

her dress, and held it. 

" Tell me who he is." 

" Gilbert Lloyd ! " 



OZi THE ROCK AHEAD. 

Gertrude was horrified at the effect which the commu- 
nication she had made to her father had upon him. He 
had set his heart strongly indeed upon her marriage with 
Miles Challoner, she thought, when the frustration of the 
project had the power to plunge him into a state of pros- 
tration and misery. As for herself, the alarm she expe- 
rienced, and the great excitement she had undergone in the 
revelation made to her by her father, the agony of mind she 
had suffered in the desperate necessity for avowing the 
truth, were quickly succeeded by such physical exhaustion 
as she had never before felt. This effect of mental excite- 
ment was largely assisted by the weakness still remaining 
after her illness, and was so complete and irresistible, that 
when she had seen the doctor hurriedly summoned to Lord 
Sandilands by Mrs. Bloxam' s orders — that lady's meditations 
on the balcony had been terminated by Gertrude's cry for 
help — and learned that the patient was not in danger, but 
must be kept absolutely quiet, she yielded to it at once. 

Not a word was said by Mrs. Bloxam to Gertrude con- 
cerning the disclosure made by Lord Sandilands. In the 
confusion and distress which ensued on the sudden attack of 
violent pain with which her father was seized, Gertrude lost 
sight of time and place, and thought of nothing but him so 
long as she was able to think of anything. Little more 
than an hour had elapsed since Lord Sandilands had told 
her the secret of his life, and she was speaking of him freely 
to Mrs. Bloxam as her father, and the word hardly sounded 
strange. She could not return to Hardriggs ; she was not 
able, even if she would have left Lord Sandilands. There 
was no danger of her seeing Miles if she remained at St. 
Leonards. Lord Sandilands had told her early in their 
interview that he had sent Miles up to town, and procured 
his absence until he should summon him back by promising 
to plead his cause in his absence. She and Mrs. Bloxam. 
must remain— not in the house, indeed, but at the nearest 
hotel. She would send a message to that effect to Lady 
Bel wether, and inform Mrs. Bush of her intention. 

Mrs. Bush had not relaxed her suspicious reserve during 
all the bustle and confusion which had ensued on the sudden 
illness of Lord Sandilands. She had been brought into 
contact with Gertrude frequently as they went from room 
to room in search of remedies, and ultimately met by the 



PERPLEXITY. 323 

old nobleman's bedside after the doctor's visit. Mrs. Bush 
did not indeed call Gertrude " Mrs. Lloyd " again, but she 
scrupulously addressed her as " Madam ;" and there was an 
unpleasant, though not distinctly offensive, significance 
about her manner which convinced Gertrude that not an 
incident of the terrible time at Brighton had been forgotten 
by the ci-devant lodging-house keeper, whose changed 
position had set her free from the necessity of obse- 
quiousness. 

Gertrude had taken a resolution on the subject of Mrs. 
Bush, on which she acted with characteristic decision, when 
at length her father was sleeping under the influence of 
opiates, and she and Mrs. Bloxam had agreed that their 
remaining at St. Leonards was inevitable. She asked Mrs. 
Bush to accompany her to the drawing-room, and then said 
to her at once : 

" You are surprised to see me here, Mrs. Bush, no doubt ; 
and as I understand from Lord Sandilands that he has great 
confidence in you, and values your services highly, I think 
it right to explain to you what may seem strange in the 
matter." 

Mrs. Bush looked at the young lady a little more kindly 
than before, and muttered something about being much 
obliged, and hoping she should merit his lordship's good 
opinion. Gertrude continued : 

" It will displease Lord Sandilands, to whom I am closely 
related, if the fact of my being married is talked about. I 
am separated from Mr. Lloyd, and it is customary for 
singers to retain their own names. Mine is Grace Lambert. 
If you desire to please his lordship, you may do so by keep- 
ing silence on this subject, by not telling any one that you 
ever saw me at Brighton under another name." 

With the shrewdness which most women of her class and 
calling possess by nature, and which the necessities of her 
struggling career as a lodging-house keeper had developed, 
Mrs. Bush instantly perceived her own interest in this 
affair, and replied very civilly that she was sure she should 
never mention anything his lordship would wish concealed ; 
and that she was not given to gossip, thank goodness ! 
never had been when she had a house herself, and which 
her opinion had always been as lodgers' business was their 
own and not hers. Consequent, she had never said a word 

y 2 



324 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

about the poor dear gentleman what had died so sudden, 
— at this point of her discourse Gertrude's jaded nerves 
thrilled again with pain, — although it had injured her house 
serious. With a last effort of self-command, Gertrude 
listened to her apparently unmoved, and dismissed her, with 
an intimation that she should return in the morning to take 
her place by Lord Sandilands. Mrs. Bush had both a 
talent and a taste for nursing invalids, and she established 
herself in the darkened room, there to watch the troubled 
sleeper, with cheerful alacrity. Her thoughts were busy 
with Gertrude, however, and with what she had said to 
her. " So she's his near relation, is she ? " thus ran Mrs. 
Bush's cogitations. " What relation now, I wonder ? Lam- 
bert is not a family name on any side, and he called her 
Miss Keith too — and I'll be hanged if lie knew she was 
married ! I'm sure he didn't. There's something queer in 
all this ; but it's not my affair. However, if his lordship 
asks me any questions, I'm not going to hold my tongue to 
him. Separated from Mr. Lloyd ! I wonder was she ever 
really married to him 1 She looked like it, and spoke like 
it, though ; a more respectable young woman in her ways 
never came to my place, for the little time she was in it. 
I wonder what she has left him for ? — though in my belief 
it's a good job for her, and he's a bad lot." 

The hours of the night passed over the heads of the father 
and the daughter unconsciously. With the morning came 
the renewed sense of something important and painfid 
having taken place. On the preceding evening, Gertrude 
had entreated Mrs. Bloxam to refrain from questioning her. 
" I am too tired," she had said. " I cannot talk about it ; 
let me rest now, and I will tell you everything in the 
morning." To this Mrs. Bloxam had gladly assented ; she 
was naturally very anxious, and not a little curious ; but 
anxiety and curiosity were both held in abeyance by the 
satisfaction she experienced in perceiving that the revela- 
tions which had been made had not seriously injured her 
position with Lord Sandilands or with Gertrude. The 
mutual recognition between Gertrude and Mrs. Bush had 
been unintelligible to her. That it had produced important 
results she could not doubt ; but on the whole, she did not 
regret them. The acknowledgment of Gertrude's ma*ria<*e 
might prevent future mischief, in which she (Mrs. Bloxam) 



PERPLEXITV. 325 

might possibly be unpleasantly involved, and at present it 
was evident that, in the overwhelming agitation and sur- 
prise of the discovery, her conduct had been entirely for- 
gotten or overlooked. That she might continue to occupy 
a position of such safe obscurity was, for herself, Mrs. 
Bloxam's dearest wish ; and Mrs. Bloxam's wishes seldom 
extended, at all events with any animation, beyond herself. 

Lord Sandilands awoke free from pain, but so weak and 
confused that it was some time before he could bring up the 
occurrences of yesterday, in their due order and weight of 
import, before his mind. He had received a shock from 
which his physical system could hardly be expected to 
recover ; but the extent of the mental effect — the fear, the 
horror, the awakening of remorse, not yet to be softened 
into abiding and availing repentance — none but he could 
ever estimate. The past, the present, and the future alike 
menaced, alike tortured him : the dead friend, the sole 
sharer of whose confidence he was ; the dead man's son, 
whom he loved almost as well as if he were of his own flesh 
and blood ; the dead woman, whom he had deceived and 
betrayed (in the wholesome bitterness of his awakened 
feelings Lord Sandilands was hard upon himself, and ready 
to ignore the ignorance which had made her a facile 
victim) ; the dreadful combination of fate which had made 
the daughter whom he had neglected and disowned the wife 
of a man whose tremendous guilt her father alone of living 
creatures knew, and had thrown her in the path of that 
same guilty man's brother, to love him and be beloved by 
him. In so dire a distress was he ; and this girl whom he 
loved with an anxious intensity which surprised himself, 
imprisoned in the hopeless meshes of the net in which his 
feet were involved. No wonder he found it hard, with all 
his natural courage, and all the acquired calmness of his 
caste, to marshal these facts in their proper order, and make 
head against the dismay they caused him. But this was no 
time for dismay. He had to act in a terrible emergency of 
his daughter's life, and to act, if indeed it were possible for 
any ingenuity or prudence to enable him to do so, so that 
the real truth of the emergency, the full extent of its terrible 
nature, should be known to himself alone, never suspecteb 
by her. The housekeeper came softly to the old nobleman's 
bedside while his mind was working busily at this prodlem, 



326 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

the most difficult which life had ever set him for solution ; 
and seeing his eyes closed and his face quiet, believed hiui 
to be still sleeping, and withdrew gently. 

By degrees, the facts and the necessities of the case 
arranged themselves somewhat in this order. Gertrude had 
told her father of her marriage, of the misery which had 
speedily resulted from it, and of the strange bargain made 
between her husband and herself. She knew Lloyd's 
worthlessness then, though she had spoken but vaguely of 
him as a gambler and a reckless, unprincipled man, not 
giving Lord Sandilands any reason to think she could 
regard him as capable of actual crime. The shock of the 
disclosure Gertrude had imputed simply to his horror of the 
clandestine nature of her marriage, and the moral blindness 
and deadness which had made the bargain between her and 
Lloyd present itself as possible to their minds (the light of 
a true and pure love had shone on Gertrude now, and 
shown her the full turpitude of the transaction) ; his sudden 
seizure had prevented his hearing more than a brief, bare 
outline of the dreadful episode of his daughter's marriage. 
She knew nothing of the real, appalling truth ; she was 
ignorant that the man she had married was a criminal of 
the deepest dye, the secret of his crime in her father's 
hands, his own brother the object of her affections, and the 
only possible issue out of all this complication and misery 
one involving utter and eternal separation between her and 
Miles Challoner. If he and Gertrude ever met again, she 
must learn the truth ; she must learn that Gilbert Lloyd 
was Geoffrey Challoner, and an additional weight of horror 
and anguish be added to the load of sorrow her unfortunate 
marriage — in which Lord Sandilands humbly and remorse- 
fully recognized the consequence, the direct result, of his 
own sin — had laid upon her. If she could be prevented 
from ever knowing the worst 1 If he, invested with the 
authority and with the affection of a parent, could induce 
her to consent to an immediate separation from Miles 
Challoner, to a prompt removal from the possibility of 
seeing him, by strengthening her own views of the insuper- 
able nature of the barrier between them ? She would not, 
however, yield to Miles's prayer for their marriage ; but that 
would not be sufficient for her safety : she must never see 
him more ; she must be kept from the misery of learning 



PERPLEXITY. 327 

the truth. How was this to be done 1 For some time 
Lord Sandilauds found no answer to that question ; but at 
last it suggested itself. Miles — yes, he would make an 
appeal to him ; he would tell him all the truth — to him who 
knew that Lord Sandilands also possessed that other secret, 
-which, to judge by its consequences, must be indeed a 
terrible one ; and Miles would be merciful to this woman, 
who, though she had sinned by the false pretence under 
which she lived, was so much more sinned against ; and, 
appearing to accept her decision, Miles would not ask to see 
her again. Yes, that would do ; he was sure that would 
succeed. And then he would acknowledge Gertrude as his 
daughter to all who had any claim to an explanation of any 
proceedings of his — the number was satisfactorily small — 
and he would leave England for ever, with Gertrude. It 
was wonderful with how strong and irresistible a voice 
Xature was now speaking to the old man's heart ; how all 
the habits and conventionalities of his life seemed to be 
dropping suddenly away from him, and something new, but 
far more powerful, establishing itself in their stead as a law 
of his being. The tremendous truth and extent of his 
responsibility as regarded Gertrude presented themselves to 
him now in vivid reality, and the strongest desire of his 
heart was for strength, skill, and patience, to carry out the 
plan which presented itself for her benefit. He felt no 
anger towards her for what she had done. Poor motherless, 
fatherless, unprotected girl, how was she to understand the 
moral aspect of such a deed ? He pitied the folly, but he 
did not seriously regard the guilt, while he deplored the con- 
sequences. Gertrude's professional career, he saw at once, 
must come to an immediate and abrupt close. There was 
no safety for her in the terrible unexplained attitude of the 
brothers Challoner, and her total unconsciousness of it and 
its bearing upon her own fate, but absence from the scene 
of the secret drama. With the grief of her hopeless, 
impossible love at her heart, and with the help and safety of 
her new-discovered relationship to him, security for her 
future and escape from the present, Gertrude would not 
hesitate about abandoning her career as a singer. It had 
never had for her the intoxicating delight and excitement 
with which such a success is invested for the fortunate few 
who attain it ; and as for the world, the lapse of the 



328 THE ROCK. AHEAD. 

brilliant star from the operatic firmament would be a nine- 
days' wonder, and no more, like such other of the episodes 
of her story and his as the world might come to learn. 
That part of the business hardly deserved, and certainly did 
not receive, more than the most passing consideration from 
Lord Sandilands. It was all dreadfully painful, and full of 
complications which involved infinite distress ; but Lord 
Sandilands began to see light in his difficult way. It was 
not until he had thought long and anxiously of Gertrude 
and of Miles that his mind turned in the direction of 
Gilbert Lloyd ; and then it was with inexpressible pain 
that he contemplated the fact that this man, whom of all 
men he most abhorred, was the husband of his daughter ; 
had had the power to make her girlhood miserable, to blight 
her life in its bloom, and to continue to blight it to the end. 
How great a villain Gilbert Lloyd was, he alone knew ; but 
no doubt Gertrude had had considerable experience of his 
character. On this point he would find out all the truth by 
degrees. His thoughts glanced for a moment at the 
probable effect it would have on Lloyd when he should dis- 
cover that the one man in the world in whose power he was, 
was the father of his wife, and had constituted himself her 
protector. At least there was one bright spot in all this 
mass of misery : knowing this, Lloyd would never dare to 
molest Gertrude, would never venture to seek her or trouble 
her, in any straits, however severe, to which his un- 
principled life might drive him. In this perfectly reasonable 
calculation there was but one item astray : Lord Sandilands 
had no suspicion of the state of feeling in which Gilbert 
Lloyd now was with respect to his wife. If he had known 
the fierce revival of passion for her, and the rage which 
filled his baffled and desperate heart, Lord Sandilands would 
not have looked with so much confidence upon the prospect 
of suffering no molestation from Lloyd. Whether his 
tigerish nature could ever be wholly controlled by fear, was 
a question to which no answer could yet be given. But Lord 
Sandilands did not ask it, and his thoughts had a»ain 
reverted to Miles, and were dwelling sadly on the caprice of 
fate which had brought his brother once more so fatally 
across his track, and had erected so strange a link between 
the calamity which had overshadowed his dead friend's life 
and that which must now be the abiding sorrow of his own 



PERPLEXITY. 320 

when the arrival of the doctor interrupted his musings, and 
obliged him to confess to being awake. 

When the visit was concluded, with a favourable report 
but many cautions on the part of the medical attendant, 
Lord Sandilands inquired of Mrs. Bush when the arrival of 
the two ladies might be looked for. They had already sent 
to ask how his lordship was, and would be there at eleven. 
Lord Sandilands then bethought him that the recognition of 
the preceding day, which had no doubt led to his receiving 
his daughter's confidence, and being preserved from blindly 
pursuing a course of persuasion and advocacy of Miles 
Challoner's suit, which might have led to most disastrous 
consequences, could now be made still more useful, as 
affording him an opportunity of learning more about his 
daughter's married life than she had had time or probably 
inclination to tell him. 

The old man looked very weak and curiously older all of 
a sudden, and Mrs. Bush, a kind-hearted woman in her 
narrow little way, was sorry to see the change. The 
sympathy in her manner and voice inspired Lord Sandilands 
with a resolution somewhat similar to that one which 
Gertrude had noted on the previous day. He asked Mrs. 
Bush to take a seat, requested her best attention to what he 
was going to say, and then told her without any circumlocu- 
tion that the lady called Grace Lambert, whom she had 
known as Mrs. Lloyd, was his daughter, whom he intended 
to acknowledge and to take abroad with him. The house- 
keeper showed very plainly the astonishment which this- 
communication occasioned her, and her embarrassment was 
extreme when Lord Sandilands continued : " And now, 
Mrs. Bush, I wish you to tell me all you know about my 
daughter, and all that occurred while Mr. Lloyd, from whom 
she separated immediately afterwards, lodged at your house 
at Brighton." 

" Of course, my lord," replied Mrs. Bush, in a nervous and 
hesitating manner, " I cannot refuse to do as your lordship 
wishes, nor do I wish so to do ; but Mrs. Lloyd did not 
lodge at my house at all in a manner ; she only came there 
unexpected, and went away at night, after the poor gentle- 
man died, as were took so sudden — dear, dear, how sudden, 
he were took, to be sure ! " 

" What gentleman 1 I don't understand you. Pray tell 



330 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

me the whole story, Mrs. Bash ; don't omit any particulars 
you can remember ; it is of great importance to me." 

Mrs. Bush possessed no ordinary share of that very 
common gift of persons of her class — circumlocution, and 
she told her story with a delightful sense of revelling in the 
fullest details. Her hearer, not under ordinary circum- 
stances distinguished for patience, neither hurried nor 
interrupted her, but, on the contrary, when he asked her 
any questions at all, put to her such as induced her to 
lengthen and amplify the narrative. When the house- 
keeper took her seat beside his bed, Lord Sandilands had 
been lying with his face towards her. As she progressed in 
her account of the sojourn of Gilbert Lloyd and Harvey 
Gore at her house, he turned away, and lay towards the 
wall against which his bed was placed, so that at the con- 
clusion of the story she did not see his face. Ashy pale 
that face was, and it bore a fixed look of horror ; for, 
bringing his own secret knowledge of Gilbert Lloyd to bear 
upon the story told by the housekeeper, Lord Sandilands 
readily divined what was that swift, unaccountable illness of 
which Lloyd's friend had died, what the irresistible power 
his wife had wielded in insisting upon the separation which 
had taken place. " The wretched girl ! What must she 
not have suffered ! " the father thought. " Alone, in the 
power of such a man, in possession of such a secret, whether 
by positive knowledge or only strong suspicion, no matter. 
Good God, what must she not have suffered ! What has 
she not yet before her to suffer ! " 

Here, as he afterwards thought, in reflecting upon the 
unconscious disclosure which Mrs. Bush had made to him — 
here was another barrier against any possible molestation of 
Gertrude by her husband, a horrible truth to grasp at with 
something like ghastly satisfaction. But horrible truths 
were all around them in this miserable complication, on 
every side. 

" Thank you," said Lord Sandilands, when Mrs. Bush had 
concluded her narrative. " I am much indebted to you for 
telling me all these particulars. You will oblige me very 
materially by not mentioning the subject in any way to any 
one." 

Mrs. Bush was aware that Lord Sandilands not only 



PERPLEXITY. 331 

possessed the means but the inclination to make it very well 
worth any one's while to oblige him, so she immediately re- 
solved upon maintaining mideviating fidelity to the obliga- 
tion he imposed upon her ; and she afterwards kept her 
resolution, which she found profitable. 

When Gertrude arrived, Mrs. Bush met her with a 
request that she would go to his lordship at once, which 
implied that Mrs. Bloxani was to remain in the drawing- 
room. This she did, composedly occupying herself with 
needlework, and feeling her hopes that she should be 
entirely overlooked in the crisis of affairs growing stronger 
and stronger. It may as well be said here, once for all, 
that these hopes were justified. Mrs. Bloxam was never 
called to account by Lord Sandilands for his money, or her 
own conduct. 

"I take it upon myself, my dear," said Lord Sandilands 
to his daughter, when many hours passed in close and 
mournful consultation between them had gone by ; " as 
soon as I am able to move — and, you see, I am greatly 
better already — the arrangements shall all be made." 

From the bed where he lay, the old man's eyes were 
turned anxiously, sadly, towards the figure of his daughter. 
Gertrude was seated in a deep chintz-covered chair, in the 
bay of the window, which overlooked a small garden of the 
sterile and sandy order, familiar to the memory of occasional 
dwellers in seaside lodging-houses. She was leaning forward, 
her head resting on her hands, her arms supported by a little 
three-legged table, her attitude full of grace and dejection. 
The afternoon sun tinged her pale cheek and her clustering 
hair, but for the moment the brilliance that was so cha- 
racteristic of her appearance was gone. But she touched 
the old man's heart all the more keenly for the lack of 
brilliancy, for she was more like her mother without it, — 
the dead mother whom she had never seen, and whose name 
had as yet been barely mentioned between them. 

" Yes," she said, absently, drearily, " I must leave it all to 
you. How strange it is to me to know that I have you to 
help me, to leave it all to ! " 

" You will not pine for the excitement and applause to 
which you are so accustomed, Gertrude 1 " 



332 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" No ; they have been very wearisome to me of late, 
since I have known how much might have been mine that 
never can be now." 

"No indeed, my dear," said her father earnestly, "it 
never, never can be now ; and your true courage, your true 
good sense is in acknowledging this at once, and consenting 
to turn your back upon it all promptly. You shall have 
none of the misery of severing these ties ; I will write to 
Munns, and tell him I am ready to indemnify his real or 
imaginary losses." 

" It will cost you a great deal of money," she said, still 
absently, still drearily. 

" It is almost time that I began to spend it on you" 
said her father, with a very unsuccessful attempt at a 
smile. 

The past, the present, and the future had been, discussed 
during the hours they had passed together, and emotion had 
worn itself out. Steadily keeping in mind the concealment 
he desired to practise, and the effect he designed to produce, 
the old nobleman had received the confidences which his 
daughter — who more and more strongly felt the tie between 
them hour by hour, and softened under its influence — 
imparted to him with the utmost tenderness and indulgence, 
but with as little effusion as possible. He had induced her 
to tell him the whole truth concerning her separation from 
her husband ; and had received the terrible revelation with 
calmness which would have perhaps shocked Gertrude had 
she not been too much absorbed in the newer, sacred sorrow 
of her hopeless love to perceive as keenly as was her wont, 
had she not also been much exhausted physically, and thus 
mercifully less sensible to impressions. She had also told 
him of Gilbert Lloyd's late pursuit of her ; and at that 
portion of her narrative Lord Sandilands ground his still 
strong white teeth with furious anger, and a thrill of exul- 
tation mingled with the rage and misery of the circum- 
stances, as he thought how utterly this villain was in his 
power, how soon he would set his foot upon his neck and 
see him writhe in impotent anguish and humiliation. But 
this was one of the feelings which he had to conceal from 
Gertrude, and he did effectually conceal it. 

The plan decided upon was that Gertrude and Mrs. 
Bloxam should return on that evening to Hardriggs, and 



PERPLEXITY. 333 

terminate their stay there as soon as possible ; and then go 
to London and occupy the interval which must elapse before 
Lord Sandilands could travel, in making preparations for 
departure. The pretty villa was to be given up ; the 
household gods which Gertrude had gathered around her 
were to be dispersed, and her life was " to begin over again." 
Is there any drearier phrase than that 1 can words represent 
any harder fact, any more painful idea 1 Then Lord Sandi- 
lands and his daughter would go abroad, and leave the 
English world behind them, to think and say just what it 
might please. The place of their abode was not even dis- 
cussed. All foreign countries were alike new to Gertrude, 
and old to Lord Sandilands. One little point of detail had 
been mentioned between them. If Gertrude wished it, her 
father would take Mrs. Bloxam with them. He inclined to 
the belief that it would be better not ; better to be away 
from every one connected with the past, from which it was 
their wish, their object to escape. And his daughter agreed 
with him, as did Mrs. Bloxam, when the matter was 
mentioned to her. She hated foreign countries — her trip to 
Italy was a standing grievance — and she was very glad to 
retire from her post of chaperone to Miss Lambert, with such 
a handsome present in money from Lord Sandilands — an ill- 
deserved acknowledgment of her services — as, added to the 
savings she had accumulated at the Vale House, rendered her 
free from the presence or the apprehension of poverty. When 
the time of parting came, this lady, on the whole a not 
unfortunate member of society as human affairs are consti- 
tuted, took leave of Lord Sandilands and his daughter with 
the utmost propriety ; and it is more than probable that by 
this time she has ceased to remember their existence. 

Gertrude took leave of her father, when the appointed 
time came for her return to Hardriggs, with little visible 
emotion. She was dazed and exhausted ; and it was not 
until the events of the last few days were weeks old, and she 
passed them in review under a foreign sky, in a distant land, 
far away from the man she loved and the man she hated, 
that she began to realize them in detail, and to feel that she 
had, indeed, " begun life over again." 

When Lord Sandilands contemplated the prospect of the 
interview he was about to have with Miles Challoner, he 
shrunk from it with dread. But he had to go through with 



& 



334 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

it ; and perhaps the most painful moment of the many 
painful hours he and his friends passed together was that in 
which the young man advanced to him with beaming looks 
with outstretched hand, with agitated voice, and said, " You 
have sent for me 1 you have good news for me 1 " 

The task was done — the task in which the old man felt 
the hand of retribution striking him heavily through the 
suffering of those he loved — the pain was borne, and the day 
after that which witnessed the arrival of Gertrude and Mrs. 
Bloxam in London saw Miles Challoner leaving the great 
city for Rowley Court, where he shut himself up in such 
gloomy seclusion that the people about began to talk oddly 
of it. Somehow the Court seemed an unlucky place, they 
said. First, the mysterious disgrace and banishment of the 
younger son ; then the lonely, moping, moody life of the 
Squire ; and now here was the young Squire going the same 
gait. There was surely something in it which was not 
lucky, that there was, and time would tell. 

The world did talk, as they had anticipated, of the 
departure of Lord Sandilands and Miss Lambert for foreign 
parts ; and as it was some little time before it got hold of 
anything like a correct version of the story, it started some 
very pretty and ingenious theories to account for that " un- 
accountable " proceeding. Managers were savage, debu- 
tantes delighted, and Lady Carabas, who knew nothing 
whatever of the matter, was charmingly mysterious, and 
assured every one that her dear Grace had been guided in 
everything by her advice, and that that dear Lord Sandi- 
lands was the most perfect of creatures, and had behaved 
like an angel. And then, in even a shorter time than Lord 
Sandilands and Gertrude had calculated upon, the world, 
including Lady Carabas, forgot them. 



CHAPTEE V. 

AN EXPLOSION. 



WHEN Gilbert Lloyd awoke the next morning after an 
excellent night's rest, his first impression was that 
something disagreeable had happened on the previous 



AN EXPLOSION. 335 

evening, but it -was some time before he could exactly recol- 
lect all the circumstances and pass them calmly in review 
before him. Even when he had done so he felt by no 
means certain how far matters had gone. He had taken 
too much of that infernal brandy, he remembered with dis- 
gust — taken it because he had been brooding over that 
business at Brighton which happened years ago, it is true, 
but which some confounded fate seemed to have set people 
talking about lately. He had not thought about it, it had 
never troubled him, and now he found his mind continually 
running on that one subject. It must have been the con- 
stant references made by those about him to — to his wife 
that must have turned his thoughts in that direction. 
Curse3 on that Sunday regulation of shutting the telegraph- 
offices ! If he had only been able to send that telegram 
as be had originally intended early in the morning, it would 
have stopped her coming down, and prevented her having 
that fatal hold over him, of which she is well aware, and 
which she is determined to exercise if necessary. It was 
thinking last night of all these things combined that had 
sent him to the brandy-bottle, a dangerous habit, which 
seemed to be growing upon him, he thought, and which he 
must at once break himself of, as ruinous and destructive 
of all chances of keeping that clearness of brain which was 
to him a vital necessity. He was muddled the previous 
night ; he felt it then ; he only saw through a glass darkly 
what had happened, and the retrospect was by no means 
agreeable. Etchingham had annoyed him, he recollected 
that ; and he had replied without measuring his language, 
and the result had been that they had agreed to part. O 
yes, now he remembered what Bobby Maitland had told 
Etchingham about him. What an idiot he had been to 
make a row about such a thing as that ! He knew well 
enough that Bobby Maitland had been trying all he knew 
for years to supplant him in Etchingham's confidence, that 
he was awfully jealous of him, and would say or do any- 
thing to get a rise out of him. He must have taken an 
amount of brandy to have made such an ass of himself. It 
was a comfort to know that Etchingham was sure to be all 
right in the morning, and to be in a great fright at what 
had occurred. He knew his pupil well enough to be certain 
of that. No doubt his lordship had also dined, and had 



336 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

taken quite enough of Mr. Stackborough's -wine. They 
were both of them excited, no doubt, but he must take care 
and stand on his dignity, and then Etchingham would come 
round at once. 

So, thinking over these things, Gilbert Lloyd took his 
cold sea-water bath, which got rid of most of the ill effects 
of the previous night, and having leisurely dressed himself, 
descended to the room where breakfast was laid. He was 
the first ; Lord Ticehurst had not yet appeared. So Gilbert 
took up the newspaper, and after glancing at the state of 
the odds and the sporting intelligence generally, remained 
expectant. He had not to wait very long. In a few 
minutes Lord Ticehurst, looking very white and seedy, and 
with his small eyes more tightly screwed up and sunk more 
deeply into his head than usual, entered the room. Gilbert 
bade him " good morning," which his lordship, walking 
round the table and flinging himself into an easy-chair, only 
answered by a short nod. He then rang the bell, and on 
the waiter's appearing, ordered brandy and soda-water. 
This, Lloyd argued to himself, was merely the effect of the 
" morning after," the result of too much indulgence in 
Stackborough's wines. His lordship's digestion was im- 
paired and consequently his temper suffered : both would 
■improve simultaneously. But after his brandy and soda- 
water, Lord Ticehurst pulled his chair to the table, and 
commenced and proceeded with a very excellent breakfast, 
•during the discussion of which he said never a word to his 
anxiously-expectant confederate, while, at its finish, he lit a 
big cigar, and, still mute, armed himself with a telescope, 
flung open the window, and stepped into the balcony to 
inspect the exhibition of the naiads bathing in the fore- 
ground. 

For once in his life Gilbert Lloyd was nonplused. He 
had made perfectly certain that Etchingham would have 
cried peccavi, would have come to him begging to have 
their relations replaced on the old footing ; and here was 
the recalcitrant apparently quite at ease, not takin"- the 
least notice of him, and obviously rather enjoying himself 
than otherwise. Had he been blind, or had Etchingham's 
character suddenly changed 1 One thing was quite certain 
that all was going wrong, and that he must take prompt mea- 
sures to set himself right. Gilbert Lloyd was not an adept at 



AN EXPLOSION. 337 

leek-swallowing. He had played his cards so well during 
the latter portion, at least of his life that he had seldom 
been required to perform that humiliating feat, but he saw- 
that he must do it now. Lord Ticehurst was, like most 
good-natured men, intensely obstinate and sulky when 
affronted, and though Lloyd had had no experience of this 
state of his pupil's mood so far as he was regarded, he had 
seen it evidenced against others. It was perfectly plain that 
one of these fits, and a very strong one, was on Lord 
Ticehurst at present, and Lloyd was compelled to acknow- 
ledge to himself that if he wanted to retain his position in 
the future he must knuckle under unreservedly and at once. 

He laid down the newspaper which he had made a pre- 
tence of reading, and looked towards the window. There, 
in the balcony, sat his lordship, the light-blue smoke from 
his cigar curling round his head, and his eye fixed at the 
telescope which he held in his hand. Gilbert rose and 
went behind him, but Lord Ticehurst, although he must 
have heard the footstep, never moved. Then Gilbert laid 
his hand on his pupil's shoulder, and said, " Etchingham ! " 

His lordship moved his eye from the telescope, and 
looked quietly at Lloyd. " Well 1 " said he, in a sufficiently 
sulky manner. 

" I have come to ask your pardon. I " 

" O, there, that's all right," said his lordship, preparing to 
recommence his performance with the telescope. 

" No, it's not all right. You and I have been intimate 
allies for a very long time. Until last night there has 
never been a word of difference between us. Nor would 
there have been then but for the infernal meddling of 
people who " 

" 0, just look here ! I didn't name any names, remember. 
It was you who said you knew Bobby Maitland had been 
making mischief." 

" It was I ; I acknowledge it. You are quite right. 
You are far too good a fellow to say a word against even 
such a bad lot as that. I lost my temper, and I spoke 
out. But why 1 Because I was in a tremendous rage at 
the impudence of that fellow Maitland daring to put his 
own words and his own sentiments into my mouth, and to 
pretend that I had said them. His own words and senti- 
ments, I say, and no on else's." 

z 



338 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

"What ! Do you mean to say that you never said — all 
that confounded stuff about the ' nurse,' and all that ? " 

" I pledge you my word of honour I never said anything 
of the kind." 

Lord Ticehurst looked straight at him as he said these 
words, but Gilbert Lloyd met the look firmly, without the 
smallest increase of colour, without the movement of a 
muscle in his face. 

" "Well," said his lordship, after a momentary pause, " of 
course after that I caunot say any more. I was most 
infernally riled when I heard you'd been chaffing about 
me, I'll allow ; because, after all, don't you know, when you 
and a fellow have lived together, and been regular pals, and 
that kind of thing " 

" And you thought I could have been such a scoundrel 
as to do that 1 No, Etchingham, I don't pretend to be 
straitlaced, and I don't go in to be demonstrative and 
gushing in my affection for you, like those duffers who are 
always hanging about you in town, and whose game you 
see through perfectly, I know. My regard for you I en- 
deavour to show in another way, in devoting myself heart 
and soul to the management of your affairs ; and if you 
look into them I think you'll find that I am faithful and 
true to you." 

Into his voice, as he uttered these last words, Gilbert 
Lloyd threw a little tremulous touch of sentiment, which 
gave evidence of a hitherto undeveloped histrionic ability, 
and which was really excellent of its kind. It was so close 
an imitation of the genuine article that most people would 
have been taken in by it, and Lloyd looked to see a .re- 
sponsive twinkle in his pupil's eyes ; but, clever and telling 
as it was, it failed to touch Lord Ticehurst. He said, " All 
right, Gilbert, old fellow ; of course I know that. Here, 
there's an end of it ! " and he stretched out his hand ; but 
there was no heartiness, no enthusiasm in his tone, no 
warmth in the grasp he gave, and Gilbert Lloyd recognized 
all this, and began to feel a dim prescience that his hold on 
his lordship was beginning to wax faint, and that his position 
as chief manager of Lord Ticehurst's affairs was manifestly 
insecure. 

Was Gilbert Lloyd's luck really beginning to fail him ? 



AN EXPLOSION. 339 

Had the devil, who had stood his friend so long, and aided 
him in his advancement so wonderfully, grown tired of and 
forsaken him ? It seemed like it, he was forced to confess 
to himself. By nature cool, crafty, and clear-headed, and 
from long practice in matters in which the exercise of those 
qualities is constantly required, Lloyd was by no means a 
man to suffer himself to remain blind to any danger 
which might threaten him. There are men amongst us 
passing for sane, nay, even reputed to be clever, who obsti- 
nately shut their eyes against the sight of the chasm 
towards which they are pressing forward, who are obsti- 
nately deaf to the roar of the avalanche which in a few 
seconds must overwhelm them, when by merely striking 
out into a new path — not so pleasant indeed, and that is 
mostly what they look at — they might avoid their fate. 
These are the men who, Micawber-like, are always expecting 
something to turn up, who refuse to see the plainest por- 
tents, to listen to the most obvious warnings, who think 
that bills disregarded are payments indefinitely deferred, 
and who put away unpleasant-looking letters unopened with 
the idea that the bad news they bring will thereby be staved 
off, who go on quo Fata ducunt, and who are astonished 
when they find themselves involved in misery and ruin. 
Gilbert Lloyd was very different from this. Let a cloud, 
even though it were " no bigger than a man's hand," appear 
above the horizon, and he took note of it instantly. He 
was specially observant of the slightest change in the cha- 
racter or demeanour of those with whom he was brought 
in eontact, even of persons of inferior grade. In fact, 
although for a long time past his life had been one of 
comparative ease and undoubted luxury, he had never 
forgotten the habits acquired in the early days of poverty 
and shifting and scheming, when his hand was against every 
man and every man's hand against him, and he was prepared 
to go to the end of the world, or out of it altogether for 
the matter of that, if he saw plainly the necessity of ab- 
sconding, or felt that his Fate had arrived. 

Was his luck going ? Was his game nearly played out ? 
There had been a great change lately, without a doubt ; he 
must not shut his eyes to that. Etchingham was certainly 
changed. Very civil and acquiescent in all that was sug- 
gested to him, never referring to their dispute on thaS 

z 2 



340 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

unlucky night, but still without a particle of the heartiness 
which formerly characterised him, and which was the salt 
of his otherwise unpleasant disposition. There had been a 
turn of luck, too, in turf matters. Some of his own private 
speculations (for Gilbert had a book of his own in addition 
to the " operations" in which # he had a joint interest with 
Lord Ticehurst, and was said also to do a great deal by 
anonymous commission) had been very unfortunate during 
the past season, and so far as he could see he was not likely 
to recoup himself by any success at Doncaster, where one 
of Lord Ticehurst's cracks had been disgracefully beaten for 
the Cup, while another, which had been one of the leading 
favourites for the Leger, had run down the scale in the 
most alarming manner, and was now, on the eve of the race, 
scarcely mentioned in the betting. 

"Was his luck going 1 Was his game nearly played out 1 
Venit summa dies et ineluctabile fatum ! Where had he 
heard that, Gilbert Lloyd wondered as he sat on the edge 
of his bed at the Angel Inn at Doncaster, turning all 
these things in his mind. Ineluctabile fatum. He gave a 
half-shudder as he repeated the words, and he gulped 
down half the tumbler of brandy standing on the table 
by his side. He felt a frisson run through him — that 
kind of creeping feeling which silly old women ascribe 
to the fact of some one " walking over your grave" 
— on which the brandy had no effect, and he stamped 
his foot in rage at his weakness. He was all wrong some- 
how ; out of health, perhaps ? But his clear sense refused 
to be deluded by that excuse. Ineluctabile fatum ! that 
was it, the summa dies for him was at hand ; he felt it, he- 
knew it, and found it in vain to struggle, impossible to make 
head against it. The roar of the crowd in the street came 
through the open window of the room in which he sat r 
that hideous roar which fills the streets of every country 
town at race-time, and which he knew so well, with its 
component parts of ribaldry, blasphemy, bestiality, and 
idiotcy. The day was bright and hot and clear — what did 
the noise outside and the bright day remind him of 1 
Something unpleasant, he felt, but he could not exactly 
fix it in his memory. He rose, and his eyes fell on the bi<*, 
heavy, old-fashioned four-post bedstead on which he had been 
seated, and on the table with the glass and bottles standing- 



AN EXPLOSION. 341 

by it. And then in an instant what had been dimly haunting 
his memory flashed all bright across his brain : Brighton, the 
crowd of racing-men on the cliff in the hot, bright weather, and 
the lodging, with Harvey Gore dying on the bed ! Gilbert 
Lloyd swallowed the remainder of the brandy, and hurried 
downstairs into the street. Immediately opposite the inn- 
door, and surrounded by a little crowd, a preacher — as is 
often to be seen on such occasions — was holding forth. The 
crowd mocked and jeered, but the preacher, secure in the 
stentorian powers of his lungs, never stopped in his attacks 
on the wickedness going on around him ; and the first words 
which Lloyd heard as he issued from the inn were, " Pre- 
pare to meet thy God." 

The gentlemen who had "operated" against Lord Tice- 
hurst's horse in the betting-ring were, on the succeeding 
day, proved to be perfectly correct in their prognostications ; 
that eminent animal being as far behind the winner of the 
Leger as his stable-companion had been in the race for the 
Cup. This result did not affect Lord Ticehurst much, so 
far as his betting losses were concerned ; he had so much 
money that it mattered little to him whether he won or 
lost ; but he did not like losing the prestige which had 
attached to his stable ever since Lloyd had succeeded poor 
old Dobbs and taken the stud in hand. And he particu- 
larly disliked the half-pitying, half-chaffing way in which 
several men condoled with him about it. 

" What's come to you, dear old Etchingham ? " said 
Bobby Maitland, who had been unable to withstand the 
fascinations of the Doncaster Meeting, and had accord- 
ingly persuaded Mr. Stackborough to leave the yacht at 
anchor off Dover while they came north ; " what's come to 
you, old man 1 The white jacket and cherry spots seem 
now always to be where the little boat was — all behind ! " 

" We have not been very lucky lately, have we ? " replied 
hi3 lordship, with an attempt at a grin — he writhed under 
Bobby's compassionate familiarity ; " but we did very well 
early in the year ; and you can't have it always, don't you 
know." 

"An yes, to be sure, you had some little things, I recol- 
lect," said Bobby Maitland more furtively than ever. 

" Don't know what you call ' little things,' Maitland," 
said Lord Ticehurst, twitted out of his usual reticence ; 



342 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" the One Thousand, and the Ascot Cup, with two of the 
best things at Stockbridge. That seems pretty good to me; 
but I suppose it's nothing to you. You never even won a 
donkey-race that I heard of." 

" yes, he did," said Gilbert Lloyd, who had come up 
to them unseen, and overheard the last remark ; " O yes ; 
Bobby won a donkey-race once, and he was so proud of it, 
he always takes the animal about with him. He's some- 
where in the neighbourhood now, I'll swear ! " 

There was a shout of laughter at this remark from all 
the men standing round, which was increased to a roar as 
Mr. Stackborough, dressed most elaborately, was seen ap- 
proaching the grotip. It was always said that Bobby 
Maitland had never been seen to lose his temper. At that 
instant he was within an ace of it ; but he controlled him- 
self with an effort, and said, "That's not bad, Lloyd ; not 
at all bad, for you. When you order Lloyd's man's new 
livery, Etchingham, you must have a cap and bells added 
to it. 'Gad, you're like one of those great swells in the 
olden time, who used to keep a fool to amuse their 
friends ! " 

" Haw, haw ! Maitland had him there ! " shouted 
" Barrel" Moss, a fat, handsome Israelite, ex-gambling- 
house-keeper, now racehorse-proprietor and betting-man, 
admitted into the society of the highest patrons of the turf. 

" What are you grinning at, Barrel 1 " retorted Gilbert. 
" You may thank your stars you did not live in the days 
of those ' great swells of the olden time.' Why, when Jews 
wouldn't pay, they used to pull their teeth out ; and what 
would have become of you when you were posted in Ted- 
dington's year? Why you wouldn't have had a single 
grinder left ! " 

Once more the laugh was on Lloyd's side, and taking ad- 
vantage of his triumph he pushed through the knot gathered 
round him, and, taking Lord Ticehurst by the arm, moved off 
towards the hotel. The colloquy between the two, as they 
walked along, was brief. His lordship was more than a 
little " out of sorts." His rejection by Miss Lambert yet 
rankled in his mind ; his recent want of success on the turf 
upset and annoyed him. He was fidgety and fretful, and 
when Gilbert asked him what they should do, and where 
they should go to next, he confessed as much, and said that 



AN EXPLOSION. 343 

he did not care so long as he was " out of the whole d d 

thing ! " Such a state of mind rather coinciding with Gilbert 
Lloyd's own feelings at the time, that astute counsellor, 
instead of opposing his patron's unmistakable though oddly- 
expressed views, fell in with them at once; declared that 
everything from British Dan to British Beersheba was 
barren, and suggested that they should go abroad for a month 
or two, lie fallow, and pick up health. Lord Ticehurst fully 
agreed with the idea of going abroad, but "would not have 
any of your touring ; " he had had enough of Switzerland, 
thank you ; and as for any of those dead-alive old cribs 
where fellows poked about among pictures and those kind 
of things, well, he would as soon cut his throat offhand ! 
He did not mind going to Hombourg or Baden, or one of 
those places where there was something to be done, and 
plenty of people to be seen. 

It was Gilbert's policy just at that time to keep his pupil 
in good humour if possible, so that even if the notion of a 
visit to Baden had not happened to be agreeable to him 
he would doubtless have suppressed his own feelings and 
assented with a good grace. But situated as he was, want- 
ing a thorough change, and yet so ill at ease as to fear 
being left alone to his own resources in a dull place, the 
gaiety of a foreign watering-place was exactly what he 
would have chosen. So, two days after, the Morning Post 
recorded that " the Earl of Ticehurst and Mr. Gilbert Lloyd 
passed through town yesterday en route for Baden." 

Men of middle age, who recollect Baden before the fatal 
facility of travel, or the invention of Mr. Cook and his 
excursionists, must look back with deep regret upon the 
pleasant days when comparatively few English p3ople found 
their way along the newly-opened railway that crept along 
the bank of the Oos. The place was known, of course ; but 
the difference between the visitors then and nowadays was 
as great as between the visitors to the gardens of Hampton 
Court on any ordinary fine day in early spring or on Easter 
Monday. The style of the company, despite the importing 
of many of the great British aristocracy who in former years 
never visited the place, but now find it much cheaper and 
more amusing than " entertaining " for partridge-shooting at 
home, has gradually been decaying ; but since the establish- 
ment of the races it has received a large proportion of that 



to 



344 THE KOCK AHEAD. 

very worst ingredient, the sporting-cad. When Lord Tice- 
hurst and Lloyd arrived, the races were just about to take 
place, and there was a strong muster of the " professionals " 
of high and middle grade, the worst being kept away by the 
difficulty of obtaining means of transport from England, 
which is a mercy of which the Germans are not sufficiently 
aware to be properly thankful for. The lowest order of 
sporting-man is the lowest order of anything. If any one 
wishes to be impressed with the depth of degradation to 
which the human species can. be successfully reduced, he has 
only to go into the Strand on a day when some great 
"event" is coming off, and observe the persons gathered 
round the office of the great sporting-newspaper about four 
in the afternoon. He will see a crowd of men of all ages — 
wizened old creatures, big burly roughs, shambling knock- 
kneed hobbledehoys, in battered hats, in greasy, close-fitting 
caps, most of them shirt-collarless, but with belcher hand- 
kerchiefs twisted round their thick throats ; many of them 
have the long, flat thieves' curl on the side of the face ; 
nearly all have the hair cut close round the nape of the 
neck : costermongers, butchers, the scum and refuse of the 
population ; dirty, half-starved, in clothes whose looped and 
windowed raggedness would be dear at half-a-crown for the 
whole lot. These be the gallant sporting-men, without the 
slightest knowledge of or care for sport, who, in order to 
enable them to bet their half-crowns on a race, empty 
tradesmen's tills, burst into our houses, and " put the hug " 
on us in the open street. 

Of course this class was unrepresented in the great 
gathering at Baden ; but there was a large influx of people 
who had never been seen there before. They filled the 
hotels and lodging-houses ; they swaggered over the pro- 
menades ; they lounged about the Kursaal, outraging the 
dignity of the officials by talking and laughing loudly ■ and 
they played at the tables, slapping their coins down with a 
ring, or motioning and calling to the grave croupiers "just 
to hook 'em that louy they'd left behind." They were a 
cause of great offence to Tommy Toshington, on whom 
Gilbert lighted on the morning after his arrival at the springs, 
where the old gentleman was holding a tumbler of very 
nasty water with a very shaky hand, and, in default of 
having any one to talk to, was vainly endeavouring for the 



AN EXPLOSION. 345 

five-hundredth time to find out the meaning of some very 
tremendous frescoes in front of him. 

'' I've been in the habit of comin' to this place for an 
immense number of years, and thought I could go on till I 
died. Devilish comfortable quarters I've got at the 
Roossy, and nice amusin' place I've always found it ; but 
I must give it up, by George ! I can't stand the set of 
racin'-fellows that come here now, 'pon my soul I can't ! 
God knows who they are, my good fellow. You, who go 
about to all these what-do-you-call-'em meetings, you may 
know some of 'em ; but I, who only toddle down to the 
Derby and Ascot on Sumphington's drag, and get over to 
Goodwood when the Dook's good enough to ask me — I've 
never set eyes on any of 'em before." 

" Well, but how do they annoy you, Toshington 1 " asked 
Gilbert, who was rather amused at this outbreak on the old 
gentleman's part. 

" They don't actually annoy me, except by bein' such a 
dam low-bred lot, yahooin' all over the place. And to 
think of 'em comin' just now, when we were so pleasant. 
It's rather late in the season, to be sure ; but there's a very 
nice set of people here. My Lady Carabas is here, but that 
you knew, of course ; and the Dook and Duchess of Win- 
chester, and the Dashwoods, and the Grevilles, and the 
Alsagers, and Tom Gregory and half the First. It's 
monstrous pleasant, you can't think ! " 

" It must be," said Gilbert quietly. " So new and fresh 
and charming. Such a change, too, for you all, not to see 
anybody you are accustomed to meet in London, — it must 
be delightful. Good-bye, Toshington ; I'm going in for 
rusticity, and intend to have a turn before breakfast." 

Although Mr. Toshington's sense of humour was very 
slight, and although he took most things au pied de la lettre, 
he detected some sarcasm in Gilbert's remarks, and looked 
after him from under scowling brows. " That's another of 
'em," he muttered ; " another of your horse-racin' customers, 
though he is in society, and all that. Damme if I know 
how they let 'em in ; I don't, by George ! They'd as soon 
have thought of lettin' a fiddler, or a painter, or a fellow of 
that sort into society when I was a young man. But it's 
best to keep in with this one ; he has the orderin' of every- 
thing at Etchingham's, and might leave me out of many a 



346 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

gcod thing if he chose to be disagreeable." So saying, the 
old worldling finished his second glass of Brunnen wasser, 
paid his kreutzers, audibly cursed the coinage of the country 
in a select mixture of the English and German languages 
"prepared expressly by him for his own use, and departed. 

Mr. Toshington was perfectly right in stating that the 
Marchioness of Carabas was enthroned in great state at 
Baden, but wrong in imagining that Gilbert Lloyd was 
aware of that fact. Truth to tell, there had been a slight 
misunderstanding, what is vulgarly but intelligibly called a 
" tiff," between her ladyship and Lloyd, and for a few weeks 
past he had not been enlightened as to her movements. 
The fact was, that when Lloyd had sufhciently used the 
grande dame as a means to various business ends, as a 
stepping-stone to certain objects which without her aid he 
would have been unable to reach, he began to find his 
position rather a wearying one. It was pleasant to be the 
custodian and hierophant of the Soul while it served his 
purpose, but it was dreary work when that purpose was 
achieved, and his interest in the Soul's owner was con- 
sequently gone. He attended at the shrine as regularly as 
ever for reasons of policy, but his policy was not suffi- 
ciently strong to keep him from occasionally gaping and 
betraying other signs of weariness. Lady Carabas was too 
observant a woman not to mark this immediately on its 
first occurrence, but she thought it might be accidental, and 
determined to wait a repetition of it before speaking. The 
repetition very shortly afterwards took place, and even then 
her ladyship did not speak. After a little reflection she 
determined on adopting another plan. She resolved upon 
taking to herself some one else who should be admitted 
into the mysteries of the Soul. This, she thought, would 
capitally answer a double purpose ; it would tend to her 
amusement — and she was beginning to feel the want of a 
little novelty, she confessed to herself — and would probably 
have the effect of rendering Gilbert Lloyd jealous. A little 
time showed the result. In the turf-idiom which she had 
learned of Lloyd, and which she sometimes used in self- 
communion, she acknowledged that " while the first event 
had come off all right, the second had gone to grief;" 
which, being interpreted, meant that while she (Lady 
Carabas) was thoroughly amused, and indeed at the height 



AN EXPLOSION. 347 

of one of her Platonic flirtations with the new possessor of 
the Soul (a young man in the Foreign Office, with lovely 
hair parted in the middle, charming whiskers, and brilliant 
teeth), he (Gilbert Lloyd) had not shown the smallest 
symptom of jealousy. On the contrary, Gilbert Lloyd was 
unfeignedly glad to find that his place had been satis- 
factorily filled up, and that he would no longer be con- 
stantly required to be on escort-duty. And Avhen Lady 
Carabas found that this was the case — and she discovered it 
very quickly, being a woman of great worldly penetration 
and tact — she made up her mind that the best thing for her 
to do was to accept the position at once, and give Lloyd his 
liberty. This accordingly she did ; and when they met at 
Baden, 

" They seemed to those who saw them meet, 
Mere casual friends of every day ; " 

as Lord Houghton says in a very charming little poem, 
though there was an echo of bygone tenderness, of the voice 
of the Soul, in fact, pervading her ladyship's tones for many 
a day after. Meantime she was the queen of a very 
pleasant little coterie. Half the frequenters of Carabas 
House did a little passing homage at her ladyship's tem- 
porary court at Baden on their way to and from the other 
watering-places. The promenade contained types of all the 
people usually seen seated on the Hyde-Park chairs, with a 
large sprinkling of others never seen in that aristocratic 
locality. For though H.R.H. the Duke of Brentford, the 
captains and commanders and mighty men of valour, the 
senators, the clerks in the Government offices!, and the 
nothing-doers have plenty of time to lounge about in 
London, the working-bees — the judges and barristers, the 
doctors, the civil-engineers, the cunning workers in ink and 
pigment, all of whom grind their brains to make their 
bread — have no such opportunity when in town, and are 
only seen idling in daylight during their brief autumn 
holiday. " Society " — except that Carabas House set, 
which knew them very well — stared very much at most of 
these people, and called Jack Hawkes of the F. 0. to its 
aid to explain who they were ; and Jack Hawkes, who was 
only too delighted to act as cicerone to society when it had 



348 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

a handle to its name, explained, " Tall man, with the round 
high shoulders and the long grey hair, is great lady's doctor, 
don't you know ? uses up three pair of horses a-day 
whippin' about town ; that's his wife and daughter with 
him — think her pretty, the daughter 1 nice-lookin', they call 
her. The man with the red face, not him .n the white 
hat — that's Kollum the portrait-painter ; that one in the 
wideawake is Sir Blewson Bagge, one of the judges — say he 
knows more law than any other three men in England. 
The fat man with the cigar is Protheroe, and the man 
talkin' to him dressed all in black is Tuberville ; they're 
great engineers — one laid out the John o' Groat's and 
Land's End Extension Line, and the other designed the 
Channel Islands Submarine Railway. Wonderful how 
they stick together, those railway fellows ; if one knows a 
good thing, he tells the other of it, and they hunt in 
couples to keep other fellows off the game. Tuberville's 
son has married Protheroe's daughter ; and the money that's 
there passes all count. There are two writin' chaps comin' 
this way ; they belong to the Kreese, that blackguard paper 
that attacks everybody, don't you know 1 Don't look bad 
fellows, do they ? and they're always laughin' and keepin' it 
up at the Badischer. Who's the little round fat fellow 
they've stopped and are talkin' to 1 — that's Bellows of the 
Old Bailey Bar ; first-rate in his business, and such good 
company ; and the man with him of course you know ? 
No ! Why that's Finchington, the light comedian of the 
Minerva. Yes, he does look different in the daylight, as 
you say. These ? No ; these are people who have come 
over for the races, and I don't know anything about them. 
We must get Lloyd to give us that information. — Here, 
Lloyd, come and tell her grace who are these odd people 
who are coming this way ; they're turf-people, I suppose, so 
you'll know all about them." 

But Gilbert Lloyd, objecting very much to be patronised 
either by Mr. Hawkes or the great people to whom that 
social barnacle had temporarily attached himself, declared 
his inability to perform the duties assigned to him, and took 
himself off with a bow. It was the night before the first 
race-day, and all the Baden world was enjoying itself on the 
promenade in front of the Kursaal. There had been a 
grand excursion-party that day to the Favourite, a party of 



AN EXPLOSION. 349 

which Lady Carabas had been the reigning star, and after a 
delightful outing they had returned, and were now formed 
into a large group, laughing and talking loudly. Gil'oert 
Lloyd carefully avoided these people, and steered equally 
clear of another group in the midst of which the Duchess 
of Winchester was enthroned. These two great ladies had 
never much liked each other, and when they met at Baden 
their antagonism was patent, and their rivalry openly 
declared. Each had her circle of admirers, and whatever 
one did the other tried to outdo. The Winchester faction 
having heard that the Carabas people were going that day 
to the Favourite, had themselves had a pic-nic at Eberstein 
Schloss, and both were now planning their next day's 
diversion at the races. 

Gilbert Lloyd was in no humour to join either of these 
parties at that moment, though each would have been glad 
to have secured him as an adherent. He was in a bad 
temper, having just had some sharp words with Lord 
Ticehurst on a question on which that young nobleman a. 
few weeks since would not have dared to offer an opinion. 
Just before they left town for Doncaster, Lloyd had dis- 
missed a groom ; the man appealed to Lord Ticehurst in a 
lettei\ This letter Lloyd opened, read, and contemptuously 
threw into the fire. The man heard of this, and made a- 
fresh appeal to his lordship, setting forth the treatment his 
former letter had received, and defying Lloyd to deny it. 
This letter was forwarded to Lord Ticehurst at Baden, 
and made him exceedingly angry. He went at once to 
Lloyd, and spoke very plainly, said that he would not be 
treated like a child, that all letters addressed to him — no 
matter on what subject — should be brought to him, and 
even hinted that on their return to England Lloyd's position 
and responsibility must be more exactly denned. 

" It was that infernal Maitland's hint that he can't 
swallow," said Lloyd, as he seated himself at an empty table 
on the verge of the crowd and ordered, some brandy. " He 
referred to it just now when he said he wouldn't be treated 
like a child. O, my dear Bobby, if ever I have the chance 
to come down heavily on you, just see how I'll do it ! I 
never saw Etchingham in such a rage, and he's never spoken 
to me like that since we've been together. — Hei*e ! " to the 
waiter who brought the brandy, " encore ; another of these 



350 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

carafons. What's the good of a drop like that to a man ! — 
He's never been the same since that night he dined with 
those fellows, after he had been over to that place to — Lord ! 
I forgot — to propose to her / Of course she must be mixed 
up in everything that's unlucky for me ! How I wish I'd 
never set eyes on her ! how I wish — What the devil does 
this fellow want ! " 

" This fellow " was a short, square-built man of about fifty 
years of age, with sunken eyes, a sharp-pointed nose, and a 
close-cut beard, the original red colour of which was fast 
fading into gray. His seedy clothes were of a foreign and 
fantastic cut, and round his neck he wore a long, dirty- 
white cravat, folded quite flat, and wonderfully neatly tied, 
and fastened in front with a flashy mock pin. " This 
fellow" had been hanging round the table for some time, 
dodging in and out so as to get a better view of its occupant 
in the dim light. At length, when Gilbert Lloyd raised his 
head and looked up at the strange figure, "this fellow" 
seemed to be satisfied, and shambling up to the table, placed 
his hands upon it, leaned over, and said in a thick, husky 

VOICG 

" Gilbert Lloyd ! " 

Lloyd looked at him steadily, and then said, " That's my 
name ; who are you 1 " 

" I thought you would not know me," said the stranger 
with a laugh, "none of my old pals do ; at least, most don't, 
and some won't, so it don't make much " 

" Stay," interrupted Lloyd ; " I know you now ; knew 
you directly you threw your head back and I saw your 
cravat. There's only one man in the world can tie a 
neckerchief like that, or get its folds to lie as fiat. You're 
Foxey Walker." 

"lam that same," said the stranger; "at least, I was 
when I was alive, for I'm nothing but a blessed old ghost 
now, I verily believe. — Here, you fellow, bring some 
brandy ; Cognac, you know ! — I ain't of much 'count now, 
Lloyd, and that's a fact," He was shabby and bloated and 
shaky, altogether very different from the tight, trim little 
Foxey who was found leaning over the rails on Brighton 
Esplanade at the commencement of this story. 

" Ah, I remember," said Lloyd ; " you came to grief the 
Derby before last, in the Prior's year?" 



a 



AN EXPLOSION. 351 

" I did so. Went a regular mucker. That was a bad 
business, sir ; a regular bad business. I could show you my 
book now. There were men that I dropped my money to 
over that Epsom Meetin' that had owed me hundreds — ay, 
hundreds, on other events. I'd always given them time, 
much as they wanted, I had ; but when I asked 'em for it 
then — for I had a rattlin 1 good book for Ascot, and some 
good things later on in the season — no, not a bit of it ! 
' Pay up,' they says, ' pay up ! ' All devilish fine ; I couldn't 
pay up — so I bolted." 

"Ah, recollect perfectly your being proclaimed a de- 
faulter," said Lloyd, pleasantly. " It made rather a talk at 
the time, you were so well known. What have you been 
doing since 1 " 

" Well, I've been cadgin' about on the Continent, doin' 
what I could to keep body and soul together. — You're goin' 
to pay for this brandy, you know 1 I suppose you don't 
mind standin' another go ? all right. — But there's little 
enough to be done. I ain't much good at cards ; and, 
besides, there's nothing to be done with them unless you 
get among the swells in the clubs and that, and that's not 
likely ; and there's not much to be picked up off the 
foreigners at billiards, let alone their not playing our game. 
I've won a little on the red and black here and there, and 
I've come across an old friend now and again who's helped 
me with a fiver or so." 

" You don't speak in riddles, Foxey," said Lloyd with a 
half-laugh. " You make your meaning tolerably clear. I 
must not be worse than the others, I suppose ; so here, 
catch hold ;" and he took a couple of bank-notes from his 
pocket-book and handed them to his companion. 

"Thank'ee, Lloyd," said Foxey, pocketing the money. 
" I ain't proud, and hadn't need to be. Besides, you've 
become a tremendous swell since you got hold of young 
Ticehurst, eh ? I see your name regular in Bell amongst 
the nobs. Rather different from what we reck'lect in the 
old days : ' Ten to one, bar one ! ' — don't you remember ? " 
and Foxey put his hand to the side of his mouth and 
shouted loudly in imitation of the worthies of the outer 
ring. 

" Ye-es," said Lloyd, who did not at all relish being told 
that he had "got hold of" anybody, and who was much dis- 



352 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

gusted by Foxey's recollections avid performance. " Yes," 
said he, rising from his chair as he spoke ; " I think I must 
go now." 

" Must you 1 " said Foxey, who had become very much 
flashed and invigorated by the brandy ; " must you 1 That's 
a bore, that is, for I had somethin' very particular to say to 
you ; somethin' that concerns you much more than it does 
me ; somethin'," added Foxey, looking hazily at his com- 
panion, "that would be d d awkward for you if it got 

blown. Don't you fear for me ! I'm as close as wax, I am ; 
only — however, I'll see you about it to-morrow or next day. 
Good-night, old fellow ; compliments to my lord." 

" Something that concerns me more than it does him 1 
That would be awkward for me if it got blown 1 What the 
devil does he mean ? " said Lloyd to himself, as he walked 
down the allee. "Awkward for me? — the old brute was 
drunk, and did not know what he said. Probably a plant 
to get more money out of me. He could know nothing 
that would have the slightest bearing on me or my affairs. 
I dare say he'll try it on again when I see him next ; but 
he'll find it difficult to draw me of any more money, more 
especially if he attempts to bounce me out of it." 

The next day was bright and cheerful, and the little race- 
course, though much sneered at by the " talent," served its 
purpose very well, and was thronged with a merry, animated 
crowd. The natives, to be sure, did not understand very 
much what it was all about. The women cried, "Ach, 
Herr, Je ! " at the sight of the tight little English jocks 
stripping off their outer coats and appearing in all the glory 
of flashing silk ; and the men took their pipes from their 
mouths and swore " Donnerwetter ! " as the horses went 
thundering by. The Winchester and Carabas faction had 
each one side of the little stand, the leaders exchanged 
sweet hand-kissings, the followers bowed and grinned and 
nodded with all the warmth and sincerity which form the 
basis of our social relations. Lady Carabas, as usual, wore 
pink • the Duchess of Winchester, who was very fair and 
petite, wore blue ; and the retainers followed suit. Mr. 
Toshington was as much divided in his allegiance and as 
much perplexed to know which colour to sport as a London 
cabman on the morning of the University boat-race. He 
had enjoyed the hospitality of both houses, and indeed had 



AN EXPLOSION. 353 

earned many a good dinner by carrying tattle from one to 
the other ; but up to this time he had never been called 
upon to make his election, to say "under which queen ;" 
and those who were in the secret, in which category was 
included every one pi'esent, were greatly amused to see the 
difficulty which the old gentleman had in trimming his sails 
and steering his course in safety. There were some who, 
unlike Tommy Toshington, were independent, who sided 
with neither party, but were friendly and familiar with 
both. Among those were Lord Ticehurst — who, though 
bound by family ties to Lady Carabas, never allowed his 
clanship to "mix him up in any of her ladyship's rum 
starts," as he phrased it — and Gilbert Lloyd, whose worn 
and haggard appearance was the cause of much solicitude 
and anxious inquiry from Lady Carabas. Lloyd appeared 
rather annoyed at the prononce manner which her ladyship 
adopted towards him, and at which some of the most daring 
followers smiled, more especially when the reigning favourite, 
the gentleman in the Foreign Office, looked very much dis- 
pleased. He seemed very much happier when, at a later 
period in the day, he found himself seated by the Duchess 
of Winchester, who rallied him with much piquancy on his 
defection. 

" I am astonished at you, Mr. Lloyd, quite astonished," 
she said, laughingly. " Do you know we used to call you 
the Undying One ! " 

"Well, you could not call Toshington that, could you, 
Duchess 1 " said Gilbert ; " look how very purple his whis- 
kers are in the sunlight." 

'• No, no, of course I don't mean that ; how can you be 
so absurd ? You know our dear friend opposite is like 
somebody in old time I read of once, who used to kill her 
admirers regularly at the end of a certain time. It's a 
notorious fact that — over there — no flirtation lasts longer 
than twelve months, and we call you the Undying One 
because you have held undisputed sway over that Soul for — 
O, it must be years ! And now, after all this, you have the 
baseness to shut your ears to the voice of the charmer — we 
saw the spell tried on an hour ago — and to come over 
here!" 

" I don't think there's much harm done, Duchess, even if 
all were as you say, which I am very far from admitting. 

2 A 



354 THE KOCK AHEAD. 

Calypso is the only instance on record of a woman who ' ne 
pouvait se consoler apres h depart ' of any one she liked. I 
am certain that no lady of modern days would be so weak." 

" Ah, I know what you mean ; you mean Mr. Pennington. 
"Well, he's very good-looking, certainly, in his own red-and- 
white way, but he's insufferably stupid ; and a stupid man, 
however handsome he may be, always bores me to death. 

I Who is this dreadful man down here ? Is it to you 

or to me he's making those horrible grimaces 1 " 

Lloyd looked over in the direction in which the Duchess 
pointed, and to his horror saw Mr. Foxey Walker, who 
apparently had had a great deal too much to drink, whose 
fantastic clothes looked infinitely shabbier and seedier in 
the daylight than they had on the previous evening, and 
who was throwing up his arms, endeavouring to attract the 
attention of some one in the stand. Foxey no sooner saw 
that Gilbert Lloyd had recognized him than he approached 
the stand, and called out, " Hi, Lloyd ! hollo there, Lloyd ! 
Just come and pass me up there, will you ? I want to speak 
to you." 

" It's to you he's calling, Mr. Lloyd ! " said the Duchess, 
arching her pretty eyebrows and making a little moue of 
astonishment. " What a strange-looking creature ! who in 
the world is he 1 " 

"He's a poor half-witted fellow, an old friend of mine, 
Duchess," said Lloyd, with the utmost calmness. " He is a 
man of family, and once had a large fortune ; but he lost 
every sixpence on the turf, and that quite turned his brain. 
He's eccentric, as you see, but perfectly harmless ; a few of 
us make him a little allowance, on which he lives, and he 

thinks this gives him a claim upon us, poor fellow ! I 

Yes, yes ; I'm coming ! " he called to Mr. Foxey, for that 
gentleman had recommenced bellowing, " Hi, Lloyd ! " with 
redoubled vehemence ; " I'm coming ! — I think I had better 
go down and calm him, Duchess, if you will excuse me." 
And with a bow Gilbert Lloyd leisurely retreated from the 
stand. 

He smiled so pleasantly — he knew he was still under 
observation — at Mr. Foxey, who was waiting for him in 
front, that that worthy, who had been somewhat doubtful 
of the wisdom of the course he had pursued, felt perfectly 
reassured, and said, " Hallo, Gil, my boy ! sorry to call you 



AN EXPLOSION. 355 

away from such stunnin company ; but I want a word with 
you." It was not until they had walked a few paces and 
were well out of sight of the people in the stand that Lloyd 
caught his companion tightly by the arm, and said, " You 
infernal drunken old idiot, how dare you come and annoy 
me when you saw me with my friends 1 " 

" Come, I say, drop that," said Foxey ; " you're pullin 
my arm off ; don't you hear 1 " 

" You scoundrel, I'll have your head off if you don't take 
care ! "What fool's game is up now 1 "What do you want 
with me ? Have you anything really to say, or is it only to 
repeat the rubbish of last night 1 " 

" What rubbish ? what did I say last night ? I didn't — 
no, of course I didn't ; I recollect now. I know what I'm 
doin' fast enough, and what I can do." 

" And I know what I can do, and what I will do too, if 
you interrupt me again when I'm talking with friends, and 
that is, have you moved off the course by the gend'armes as 
a drunken nuisance." 

" 0, that's it, is it 1 " said Foxey, glowering at him, and 
speaking in a dull thick voice. " Moved off the course ! a 
drunken nuisance, eh ? You'll sing a very different toon to 
this, Master Lloyd, before I've done with you. O, you can't 
come the high jeff over me," he continued, raising his tone ; 
" for all your standin' in with big swells now ; we know 
what you were once ; we know " 

"Will you be quiet, you old fool, and say what you 
want ? " said Gilbert, turning fiercely upon him. 

" What. I want ? Ah, that's more like it ! What I 
want 1 Well, that's easily told, and that's more than most 
people can say. What I want is money." 

" I gave you money last night — more than you can have 
spent, or ought to have spent." 

"Ah, that's more like it : what I can spend — Well, no 
matter. However, that's not the way I mean in which I 
want money. Look here, Gilbert Lloyd ; I'm tired of this 
cadging life ; I'm sick of hikin' up and down from one 
gamblin'-place to another; I'm disgusted with the Continent, 
and the foreigners, all the lot of 'em." 

"0, you are, eh?" said Lloyd with a sneer; "I should 
scarcely have thought it." 

" Yes," replied Foxey, in perfect good faith, " I am 

2a 2 



356 THE EOCK AHEAD. 

thoroughly. What I long for is to get back to England, 
to see my old pals, to lead my old life." 

" Indeed," sneered Gilbert again ; " but from what I 
understand from you there would be some difficulty in 
carrying out that pleasant little arrangement." 

" None that you couldn't help me to settle at once. They 
all think their money's clean gone; but if I'm to come on 
the turf again, it would never clo for me to come out as a 
welsher, so I must pay 'em something ; but ever so little 
would square it. Then, if I just had a little trifle in hand 
to start with, and you gave me the office when you knew of 
a good thing — and you must hear lots, havin' the manage- 
ment of that young swell's stable — well, I should do as 
right as ninepence." 

There was a minute's pause, and then Lloyd said : 

" You are a great creature, Mr. "Walker, a very great 
creature, and your power of sketching out a happy future is 
something wonderful. But to my great astonishment I find 
that I play a part in this notable scheme of your life, and 
that its being carried out successfully wholly depends upon 
me. Now, we may as well understand each other clearly, 
and at once. From me you'll never get another sixpence." 

Foxey started, looked hard at his companion, and said, 
"You mean that?" 

" No," said Lloyd, " I don't mean it literally ; I'll give 
you another ten pounds on the day I leave this place." 

It was Foxey's turn to sneer now. " That's generous of 
you," he said, " regular generous ; but you always were a 
free-handed fellow with your money, Lloyd. I reck'lect we 
used to say in the old days how pleased you always were to 
have to part. Now look here," he cried, changing his tone ; 
" I will have all I've asked from you : the money to square 
it with those fellows, the sum to start fresh with, the 
straight tips from young Ticehurst's stable ; I'll have this, or 
else " 

"Or what else?" asked Gilbert Lloyd, without any 
alteration in his usual calm manner. 

" Or else I'll ruin you, root and branch ; horse and foot ; 
stock, lock, and barrel ! You laugh and sneer ; you think 
I can't do it ? I tell you I can." 

" You tell me a pack of lies and blather. You begun 



AN EXPLOSION. 357 

last night, and you've done nothing else for the last half- 
hour. How can you do it ? " 

" By blowing the gaff on you ; by telling something I 
know which would make all these swells cut you and hunt 
you out of society ; which would " 

" There, there's enough of this ! " cried Lloyd, interrupting 
liini ; " my time's too valuable to waste over such trash. 
It's the old game of hush-money for a secret, after all. I 
should have thought you would have known some better 
dodge than that, Master Foxey, after all the life you've 
seen. If you were going in for the extortion-of-money 
business in your old age, you might have learnt something 
fresher than that very stale device. Now, be off, and give 
me a wider berth for the future, if you're wise. Your 
drunken stupidity — for I suppose you would not have acted 
thus if you had not taken to drink — has lost you ten 
pounds. Take care it does not get you a horsewhipping." 
As he said these words he turned shortly on his heel and 
strode away. 

Foxey looked after him, his face lit up with rage and dis- 
appointment. " All right, my fine fellow," he muttered, 
shaking his fist at the fast-receding figure ; " all right ; you 
will have it, and you shall. It will be quite enough to 
cook your goose as it is ; but if I'd only had time to learn a 
little more, I think I could have hanged you." 

There was a little extra excitement in the rooms that 
night. Count NicolaefF, a Russian nobleman, who had on 
two previous occasions broken the bank, had returned to 
Baden, and was playing with a boldness and success which 
augured the repetition of the feat. A crowd was gathered 
round him as he sat, calm and composed, quietly gathering 
the rouleaux which the croupiers pushed across to him. In 
this crowd was Lloyd ; the qualities which the Russian was 
displaying were just those to excite his admiration, and he 
was watching every movement and trying to account for 
each calculation of the gambler, when he felt a tap on his 
shoulder. He looked round and saw Dolly Clarke, the 
bporting lawyer, who beckoned him away. 

Gilbert was annoyed at the interruption. " Not just 
now," he said impatiently ; " I'll come to you later." 



358 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" Come this instant," said Dolly Clarke ; and there was 
something in his tone that made Gilbert Lloyd leave the 
table and follow him into the open space outside. By the 
lamplight Lloyd saw that Clarke was very pale ; noticed 
also that he stood back as if avoiding contact with him. 

" What is it ?" asked Lloyd. "It should be something 
special by your tone and manner, Clarke ? " 

"It is something special," replied Clarke] "it is a 
matter of life or death for you. Do you know a man 
called Foxey ■Walker?" 

" Pshaw ! is that all ?" said Lloyd, whose heart had 
failed him at the solemnity of his companion's manner, and 
whose courage now as suddenly revived. "Is that all? 
Yes, I know him ; a defaulting ring-man, a mere common 
' welsher.' I saw him on the course to-day, and he 
threatened me that if I did not give him money he 
would expose something in my past life — some trick or 
dodge I practised, I suppose, when I was in the ring, and 
had to be a sharp practitioner to hold my own with my 
fellows. That's all, eh ?" 

" No," said Clarke earnestly, " nothing of the sort ; the 
man has made a revelation, but not of the kind you imagine 
—a thousand times more serious. There's never been 
much love lost between you and me, Lloyd, and you may 
wonder why I'm here to counsel and help you ; so under- 
stand at once, it's for Ticehurst's sake ; you're so mixed up 
with him that any public expose would be the deuce and all 
for him." 

" What do yo\x mean by public expose, Mr. Clarke ? 
what do you " 

" Stop ; don't bounce — it won't do. Do you remember 
when we dined at Richmond six weeks ago, you answered 
me very sharply because I asked why you never went to 
Brighton now ? I've always had my own opinion on that 
matter ; but I don't chatter, and I kept it to myself. This 
man Walker stopped Ticehurst and me as we were coming 
from the course, and begged so earnestly for an interview 
that Ticehurst listened to him. I need not go into all he 
said ; it appears he had bis suspicions too, and determined 
to trade on them ; went the next year to your old lodgings, 
pumped the landlady ; saw the doctor who attended Harvey 
Gore ; has been working it since he left England through 



AN EXPLOSION. 3 -J 9 

friends ; and has made up a case which, if not positive, is at 
all events infernally suspicious." 

" What — what did Etchingham say about it 1" asked 
Lloyd. 

" I never saw a fellow so completely knocked over in all 
my life. You know he is not strong-minded, and he — well, 
he funks death, and that kind of thing, and " 

" Does he believe it 1 what does he say about me 1" 

" He does believe it fully, and he says he will never set 
eyes on you again. I see — your eyes are blazing — you see 
there's nothing proved, and your place is too good a one to 
give up on mere suspicion? You'll say you'll have the 
matter sifted, and all that. Don't ; take my advice — given 
as a lawyer who sees queer things in his practice — drop it, 
clear out of this at once, get over to England, make up 
Ticehurst's accounts, and then get away to Australia, 
America — anywhere !" 

" Thank you ; and leave my ' place,' as you call it, to you, 
eh 1 " It was the last remaining touch of bravado in his 
voice, bravado belied by the ashy paleness of his face, and he 
set rigidity of his mouth. 

" To me ! I'm a lawyer, not a turfite. Pshaw ! don't 
try to humbug any longer — you're too clever a man. You 
can post over to Carlsruhe to-night, and get straight through 
to-morrow. I'll come with you to the hotel ; I promised 
Ticehurst I'd see you off. Come." 

Gilbert Lloyd saw that there was no use in fighting the 
question any longer. He felt as though, his career was at 
its close, as though he should drop as rapidly as he bad 
risen. He turned on his heel and walked towards the 
hotel, Dolly Clarke walking by his side. It was all over, 
then 1 The position he had gained for himself amid the 
envy and hatred of all his compeers was shattered at its 
base, and 

No ! Before he reached the hall-door, he had carefully 
searched his hand, and found in it one last trump-card, 
which he determined on playing directly he arrived in 
England. 



360 THE ROCK AHEAD. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE LAST CHANCE. 

MR. LLOYD gone ! They could scarcely believe it at 
Baden. Lady Carabas was in despair, and the 
Duchess of Winchester was vexed, for she was fond of 
flirtation, and she had found Mr. Lloyd " very nice." The 
led captains and the other male retainers of both ^factions 
looked on Gilbert as a dangerous rival, and were rather glad 
than otherwise that he was out of the way. Gone to 
England, eh 1 Yes. Summoned by a telegram on most 
important business, so Dolly Clarke said ; he happened to 
he with him at the time the telegram arrived, and so of 
course knew all about it. On Lord Ticehurst's business, of 
course 1 "Well, Dolly Clarke supposed so ; in fact, he 
might go so far as to say "yes," and rather unpleasant 
business too. Lord Ticehurst was rather annoyed about it, 
and so perhaps you would be so good as not to mention it to 
him 1 Needless to say there were some people who did not 
believe this statement, even when vouched for on such 
excellent authority as Mr. Dolly Clarke's. There are some 
people who will not believe anything. Mr. Toshington is 
one of them. He thinks it a " deuced odd story," and sets 
about to investigate it. He sees the landlord, porter, 
waiters, hausknecht of the hotel, every individual separately, 
and puts them through the strictest investigation in the 
most extraordinary melange of languages ; finally, he goes to 
the telegraph-office and ascertains triumphantly that for the 
Herr Lloyd, Englander, no telegraphic despatch received 
was. Tommy opines that Gilbert's absence has reference to 
some infernal chicanery connected with the turf, and sets 
that down as the reason why Ticehurst is so shy about 
speaking about it. Queer business for peers of the rel-lum 
to be mixin' up in such matters, Tommy thinks, and any- 
thin' but a good sign in these infernal levellin' times. Lady 
Carabas is really very sorry. She had a sort of idea that 
Gilbert was " coming round ; " but his having gone away 



a 



THE LAST CHANCE. 361 

in this sudden manner, and gone away without a hint of his 
going, or word of adieu to her, was a death-blow to that 
hope. And Mr. Pennington, the gentlemanly creature in 
the F. O., though charming to look at and pleasant so far 
as his conversation lasted, was soon exhausted, and was not 
to be compared with Gilbert Lloyd as a bright and amusing 
companion. " He might have thought of me before he went 
away," Lady Carabas thought to herself. She had no idea 
that Gilbert Lloyd had thought about her, and with con- 
siderable earnestness too, as he was walking away from the 
Kursaal in company with Mr. Dolly Clarke, immediately 
previous to his quitting Baden. He had carefully weighed 
in his mind whether there was any use in getting her to 
appeal to Lord Ticehurst in his behalf, founding his appeal 
on a tremendous story of his innocence and of his being the 
victim of circumstances, which story he could arrange during 
the night. But he finally rejected the notion ; there was 
something decisive and pitiless about Mr. Clarke's manner, 
which told Lloyd it would be useless for him to indulge 
himself with any hopeful view of the case. As he travelled 
through the night, and turned all the events of the past days, 
of the past years, over and over in his mind, during his 
weary journey, he felt convinced that he had acted wisely in 
this matter. Only one thing annoyed him ; if the worst 
came to the worst, and he was obliged, as Clarke had hinted, 
to go away to Australia or America, he should want all the 
money he could lay his hands on, and he might have "bled" 
her ladyship for a good round sum. He had letters of hers 
in his possession, written in all innocence it is true, but 
quite sufficiently compromising if read from the legal point 
of view, which ought to have effected that. 

When Lloyd arrived in London, he did not go to Lord 
Ticehurst's house in Hill Street, where wei'e all his goods 
and chattels ; he would go there later, he thought, and see 
what could be done after a careful examination of the books 
and papers. He drove to a house in Duke Street, St. 
James's, where he had lodged years before ; and the land- 
lady of which, looking scarcely a day older, came out to the 
door, told him his old rooms were vacant, and welcomed him 
heartily. Gilbert Lloyd always was popular with his 
inferiors ; it was part of his policy in life to be so, and he 
took every opportunity of saying polite things to them, and 



362 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

doing them cheap civilities. Even now, as he jumped out 
of the cab, he told Mrs. Jobson how well she was looking, 
and how he felt quite pleased at the notion of coming back 
to the old rooms ; and then he bade her take his luggage in, 
and ran upstairs. 

The old rooms ! He looked round them, and found 
them scarcely changed. The furniture was a little shabbier, 
perhaps, and looking through the window the opposite side 
of the street seemed, if possible, a little closer than before. 
The same slippery chintz on the sofa, the same regulation 
number of chairs, the same portrait of the Princess 
Charlotte, at which Gertrude had screamed with laughter, 
and called it a " hideous old thing," the first day he brought 
her there. Gertrude 1 Yes ; that was their first lodging 
after their marriage. He brought her there, and at that 
instant he seemed to see her as she was when she first 
entered the little room ; how she looked round in surprise, 
and then ran to the window and knelt and looked up for 
the sky. The chain of his reflection was broken by the 
entrance of Mrs. Jobson, who expressed her delight at 
seeing him again. 

" But, do you know, I did not reckernize you at first, Mr. 
Lloyd — I did not, indeed. Seeing you alone, I suppose it 
was. I hope you're not alone in the world, Mr. Lloyd 1 — 
that you've not lost that dear sweet lamb 1 " 

" no, Mrs. Jobson, thank you ; Mrs. Lloyd is alive and 
very well." 

" That's good hearing, I'm sure ; and grown into a fine 
woman, I've no doubt. Those slight slips of girls with 
plenty of bone, when they fill out, improve wonderful ; " and 
then Mrs. Jobson changed the subject, and launched into 
questions of domestic economy into which it is not necessary 
to follow her. 

And the next day Gilbert Lloyd prepared to play the 
last trump-card which he found in his hand when he so 
carefully examined it on the night he left Baden. He had 
given deep consideration to his plan since, had gone through 
every detail, had turned and twisted the intended mode of 
working his scheme, and had definitely resolved upon the 
manner in which he would carry it out. 

And this was his resolution — to claim his wife. He had 
calculated exactly all the risk that was contained in that 



THE LAST CHANCE. 3G3 

one sentence, and he had determined to brave it, or at all 
events to pretend to be prepared to brave it. From those 
few words which Gertrude had whispered to him, when in 
his rashness he had braved her at Mrs. Stapleton Burge's 
party, he knew that she was mistress of the secret of 
Harvey Gore's death. But the question then arose, would 
she dare to avail herself of the knowledge she possessed ? 
Yes, he thought she would, sooner than be forced to return 
to him. Except during the first few months of girlish 
idolatry, she had never cared for him, and now she had 
many reasons for positively hating him. The manner in 
which he had treated her would have been quite enough to 
a girl of her spirit, without the suspicion of his crime, the 
position which she had subsequently gained for herself in 
the world, and — her love for another man. Even in the 
strait in which he found himself, that last thought was 
suflicient to tempt him to run almost any risk to prevent 
her being anything to any other man, but to that man 
above all others in the world. 

Another question then arose ; how much did she know 
about what had transpired in those accursed Brighton 
lodgings 1 Foxey Walker, with all his knowingness, with all 
the means which he had employed, with all the tremendous 
inducement he had to endeavour to find out everything, to 
drag its deepest depths, and expose all he could rake 
therefrom in the light of day, had only been able to patch 
up a case of suspicion. So Dolly Clarke had said. To be 
sure he, Gilbert Lloyd, had taken fright at the bogey thus 
raised, and had run away ; but he was taken aback, the 
charge was brought forward so suddenly, and it was im- 
possible to face the charivari which would have risen round 
him, or to silence the accusation off-hand on the spur of 
the moment. Impossible, and not particularly worth his 
while. He had always thought that the connection 
between him and Lord Ticehurst must be brought to an 
end some day, and had often imagined, more especially 
during the last few weeks that it would terminate in a 
row. "Well, that could not be helped. He had had 
wonderfully good pickir^s for a very long time ; and though 
he had lost all that he had put by in his recent unfortunate 
speculations, the mine was not yet exhausted, the milch- 
cow -vas not yet dry. In the message which Clarke had 



364 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

conveyed to him from Lord Ticehurst, he was directed to go 
to Hill Street, and make up the books and balance the 
accounts between them ; and it was odd if he could not 
show a considerable balance due in his favour ; ay, and 
claim it too, so long as a portion of his loi'dship's banking- 
account was responsive to checks bearing Gilbert Lloyd's 
signature. The question remained then, how much did 
Gertrude know 1 He could not guess from the few words 
she had whispered to him that night, for on that occasion 
also he had taken fright and rushed off without probing 
the matter. But if Foxey Walker could bring forward 
nothing positive, nothing actually damnatory, the odds 
were very strongly against Gertrude's being able to do so. 
And it was a great stake he was going in for now. She 
could always earn a huge income by her voice ; but this 
was not all. This old Lord Sandilands, who had almost 
adopted Gertrude as his daughter — so, at least, Lady 
Carabas had told him, and she ought to know — had the 
reputation of being immensely rich. He lived so quietly 
and unostentatiously, that the world insisted he had been 
putting by two-thirds of his income for years ; and he had 
no relatives to whom to bequeath it. It would, therefore, 
probably all be Gertrude's, or of course, his identity once 
established, Gertrude's husband's. Now, what course, 
would they adopt 1 Would they accept him ; let him live 
with her during the old man's lifetime, and inherit with 
her at the old man's death ? Even if all the capital were 
tied down, the interest would afford a splendid income. 
Or would they offer to buy him off with a sum down and a 
yearly income 1 Either would do, though the first would 
be best, for — yes, by Jove ! much best, for the second 
would leave Gertrude open to the attentions of his brother 
Miles. However, he was in a strait, and could not afford 
to be particular, unless they fought him, and then — well, 
he would risk that, and play his last trump-card. 

So Gilbert Lloyd, on the morning after his arrival in 
London from Baden, sat down and wrote a long and 
elaborate letter to his wife. He told her that from the 
first he had never ceased to grieve over that unfortunate 
step which they had taken under the influence of temper 
and youthful folly. He did not repine ; indeed, he had no 
doubt that the separation had had a properly chastening effect 



THE LAST CHANCE. 3G-3 

— had given them time and opportunity to see the mistake 
of indulging in headstrong passion, and had probably 
rendered them both — he certainly could speak for himself — 
worthier members of society ; but the time, he thought, 
had arrived when it would be not merely advisable, but 
proper, to place themselves right with each other and before 
the world. There existed between them a tie which was 
far more solemnly obligatory on them than any human- 
made law, — although he need scarcely point out to his wife 
that their marriage had never been legally dissolved, — and 
while both the spiritual and moral contracts were in force it 
was impossible to shirk their influence. He owned that he 
had been profoundly touched, on the several occasions on 
which he had met her recently in society, by the fact that 
he, her legitimate protector, who should have been at her 
side, whose proper position was at her right hand, should have 
had to stand aloof and look on, while others pressed round 
her, owing to the foolish step they had taken. She would 
agree with him, he felt sure, that this was a false position, 
and one which should be at once set right ; and the only 
way in which that could be done would be by their at 
once coming together and assuming their proper relations 
before the world. He, on his part, would not object, if it 
was thought necessary or advisable, for an entirely fresh 
marriage between them ; that detail could be arranged 
afterwards. He was writing this in his old lodgings in 
Duke Street, which she would recollect, to which he had 
first taken her after their marriage. She was a grande dame 
now, but he did not think he wronged her, or flattered 
himself, in stating his belief that she had never known more 
real happiness than when inhabiting those little rooms. 
Might the omen prove propitious ! — Ever hers, G. L. 

" And for a sort of thing that's not the least in my line 
I don't think that's bad," said Gilbert Lloyd, as he read it 
over. " It seems to me to combine the practical with the 
romantic, a very difficult thing to hit off, and one likely to 
please both phases of Gertrude's character." Then he 
sealed it, and addressed it to Miss Lambert, to Sir Giles 
Belwether's care, despatched it, and waited the result. 

There must be a clear day at least before he could receive 
a reply, and that day he found it very difficult to get 
through. He could not go to Hill Street, though there was 



■3G6 THE HOCK AHEAD. 

plenty of work awaiting him there, because on the tone of 
Gertrude's reply to his letter would greatly depend the tone 
of his conduct towards Lord Ticehurst. If his wife, no 
matter from whatever motives of policy, thought it better 
to yield to his views, he would then be in a position to 
resent his sudden dismissal, and to speak his plain and un- 
adorned sentiments to his lordship in equally plain and 
unadorned language. If, on the contrary, Gertrude tem- 
porised or refused point-blank, and he saw there was no 
chance of carrying out his wishes, then all he had left him 
was to go to Hill Street to see the very best arrangement 
he could make for himself, by which he meant to ascertain 
the largest amount he could draw on the fund for which 
his signature was good at Lord Ticehurst's banker's — other 
available funds he had none — and making the best of his 
way to Australia or America under a feigned name, begin 
life again de novo. So he mooned about during the dreary 
day — it was dreary enough ; none of his friends were in 
London, and the aspect of the town was deserted and 
wretched in the extreme — and was not sorry when ifc was 
time to go home and to bed. The next morning before he 
was yet up Mrs. Jobson knocked at his door, and pushed in 
a letter which had just arrived by the post. Lloyd sprang 
up, and seized it at once. It was a large folded letter, ad- 
dressed not in Gertude's hand, but in writing which had 
once been bold and was still large, but a little shaky and 
tremulous, and was sealed with a coronet and a cipher. 
Gilbert broke it open hurriedly, and read as follows : 

"Hastings, Sept. 26, 186—. 

" Geoffrey Challonee, — for it would be absurd in me 
to address you by any other name, — the lady who has the 
inexpressible misfortune of being your wife has placed in 
my hands the letter which you have addressed to her, and 
has begged me to reply to it. The reply to such a letter 
could not be confided to fitter hands than those of the lady's 
father, in which position I stand. The young lady whose 
professional name is Miss Grace Lambert is my natural 
daughter ; the fact has been duly acknowledged by me, and 
the first act after the avowal is to champion my daughter's 
cause against a villain. For you are a villain, Geoffrey 
Challoner ; though God knows it is with the deepest pain 



THE LAST CHANCE. 3G7 

that I write such words of any man bearing your paternal 
name ; for in applying this term to you I am not actuated 
by a remembrance of the wrongs you have done to Gertrude, 
I am not even thinking of the fearful crime which you com- 
mitted, and which was revealed to her by your victim with 
his dying breath on the occasion of your final separation. 
I am looking back across a gulf of years to the time when 
the dearest friend I had in the world was your father. 
Now, Geoffrey Challoner, do you begin to understand ? To 
me your father confided the narrative of the events which 
ended with your banishment from home, and your erasure 
from the family annals for ever. That narrative I have by 
me now. Your career has been hitherto so successful, you 
have gone so long unpunished, that you will be sceptical 
on this point, but I will prove it to you. That narrative, 
written in your father's own hand, sets forth your boyish 
disobedience, your tendency to dissipation, the impossibility 
to make you think or act rightly ; and finally, your awful 
crime. When you have read thus far you will still cling 
to the hope that the knowledge of the nature of that crime 
may have passed into the grave with him whose heart it 
broke, who never held up his head after its discovery. If 
any such hope arises in you, it is my duty to stamp it out. 
Geoffrey Challoner, in my possession, complete in every 
detail from its commencement to its frustration, is the 
story of your attempted fratricide. There can be read, 
couched in your father's homely, serious, truth-begetting 
phrases, the record of how you, finding it impossible to 
undermine your father's confidence in your elder brother 
by lies and slanders of the most malignant nature, at length 
determined to step into that brother's position by taking 
away his life by poison. Do you admit the force of my 
position now, or would you wish the details brought out one 
by one into the light of day, before the public eye 1 

" This letter is written in self-defence, or, what is the 
same thing, in defence of my child. The letter she has re- 
ceived from you, however pleasantly and skilfully worded, 
was a threat, an order to her to receive you as her 
husband, a threat as to what she might expect if she re- 
fused. Now beware. Had you been content to leave 
Gertrude unmolested, had you shown the slightest remorse 
for the horrible crimes, one of which you contemplated, 



368 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

the other which, as I verily believe, you committed, I 
would have tempered justice with mercy, and left you to 
the never-failing retribution which your conscience would 
sooner or later have claimed of you. That is now im- 
possible. By your own act you have prevented my using 
any such discretion in the matter. You have thrown down 
the gauntlet, however covertly, and must take the conse- 
quences. I have telegraphed to your brother and to my 
solicitor to come to me at once. I shall place before them 
your father's narrative, and shall tell them what Gertrude 
has told me. Do not flatter yourself with the notion that 
a wife cannot be a witness against her husband. There is 
plenty of other evidence, some of which I find has been 
already worked up ; and we shall take such steps as may 
seem to us advisable. 

" Sandilands." 

" I've knocked twice with Mi\ Lloyd's breakfast, and 
I can't make him hear," said Mrs. Jobson to her servant 
that morning ; " and he such a light sleeper too, in general. 
I'll try once more, and if he don't answer, I'll peep in." 

The landlady knocked again, but with no effect ; and 
when she " peeped in " she found Gilbert Lloyd fallen 
prone on his face on the floor, with a letter grasped in 
his stiffened hand. 



CHAPTER VII. 

INELUCTABILE FATUM. 

IT was fortunate that Mrs. Jobson was a practical woman 
of resources and presence of mind, for the first thing 
she did was to fling the contents of the water-jug over 
Lloyd's head (he was a favourite with her, or she would 
scarcely have risked damaging the carpet by such a pro- 
ceeding) ; the second was to opent he window ; and the third 
was to loosen his collar, and raise him into a half-sitting 
position. She then called out to the servant to run for the 
doctor ; but Lloyd, who had by this time opened his eyes 
and come to his senses, vehemently opposed this sugges- 



INELUCTABILE FATUM. 3G9 

tion, declaring himself to be quite recovered, and leading 
Mrs. Jobson to believe that these were attacks to which he 
was by no means unaccustomed — which, though unpleasant 
to the lookers-on, were not dangerous to the sufferer, and 
that he knew how to treat himself, to prevent the recur- 
rence of the seizure for some time to come. Mrs. Jobson 
was much pleased to hear this, for, with all her practicality, 
she had that vague fear of sudden death, and its ne- 
cessitated coroner's inquest, which is so often found among 
people of her class. After her fashion, too, she really 
liked her lodger, for Gilbert Lloyd had always been civil 
and agreeable — had given little trouble, and paid his way 
with consistent punctuality ; so she was glad to find him 
looking something like himself, and lightly treating what 
she had at first imagined would be a very serious matter. 

But when he was left to himself, and the reaction after 
the cold water, and the mental spurt which he had put on 
to talk to the landlady, set in, Gilbert Lloyd felt that the 
blow which for the last few days he had been certain was 
impending, had fallen at last. The depression under which 
he had been recently labouring was then accounted for ; 
that attempted crime, which had brought upon him the 
sentence of banishment from his father's house, the loss of 
his ancestral name and family position, which had sent him 
forth into the wilderness of the world, there to stand or fall 
entirely by his own arts or luck, — this crime was to be 
visited on him again, just at the very time when everything 
else was going wrong with him ! 

Lord Sandilands, then, was the friend to whom his father 
had confided that horrible secret. He had often wondered 
to whom his father's letter had alluded, but had never 
thought of identifying the bland, pleasant old nobleman 
with the man who held the history of his dishonour in his 
keeping. His father's letter had said, " This friend is not 
acquainted with your personal appearance, and cannot 
therefore recognize you, should your future conduct enable 
you to present yourself in any place where he may be 
found." Even in the desperate circumstances in which he 
was placed, Gilbert Lloyd almost laughed as he recalled 
these words, and thought how frequently his conduct had 
" enabled him to present himself" in places where old Sandi- 
lands was to be found ; how, indeed, he had been a leader 



370 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

and prime favourite in the very society which the old noble- 
man most affected. "Not acquainted with his personal 
appearance : " of course not, or Lord Sandilands would 
never have consented to meet him on the terms on which 
they had met, and which, though not intimate, were suffi- 
ciently familiar ; would never have suffered him to be the 
second-self of Lord Ticehurst — his lordship could endure 

Gilbert Lloyd the turfite, but Geoffrey Cballoner How 

had he learned about Geoffrey Challoner, then 1 — whence 
had come this secret information 1 Not from Gertrude : 
that little fact was yet to be broken to her, he thought with 
bitter delight. Who had been Lord Sandilands' informant ? 
Miles, of course ! — he had forgotten him, his dear, charming 
brother Miles ! O, that boyish hatred had not been mis- 
placed ; there was something in it beyond the mere desire 
to get rid of one who stood between him and the estate. If 
Miles had been nothing to him, he should have hated him. 
Miles, of course ! His father's letter had told him that this 
friend would be " always in close and constant intercourse 
■with my son." Close and constant intercourse ! — that was 
true enough ; and now this precious pair had put their 
heads together for the purpose of his humiliation. Why 
just at that time 1 It could only have been recently that 
Miles had told the old gentleman, though he had known it 
so long ago. Why had he only just told Lord Sandilands, 
when he had known it ever since Gertrude's first ap- 
pearance at Oarabas House 1 Gertrude — and Miles ! was 
that the clue ? Miles was desperately in love with Gertrude 
— he had seen that with his own eyes ; and, besides, Toshing- 
ton — everybody — had told him so. In their confidence on 
this point, can Miles have revealed this fact to his old 
friend ? Gilbert did not see what end could have been 
gained by that, more especially as the greatest secret of all 
— the existence of the marriage between him and Gertrude 
— was evidently not yet known to Miles. 

And Gertrude was Lord Sandilands' daughter ? That 
was a surprise to Gilbert. That the old nobleman would 
have adopted her, and made her his heiress, Lloyd had 
expected ; but the thought that she was his natural 
daughter had never suggested itself to him. Ah, what an 
infernal fool he had been ! All these years he had been 
congratulating himself on his good fortune, and now he 



l.NELL'CTAEILE FATUM. 371 

found he had been merely running after the shadow and 
neglecting the substance. What a dolt he had been to 
allow Gertrude to leave him at all ! He might have lived 
on her in a princely manner — first on the money which she 
made by her profession, and secondly by properly working 
this secret of her relationship to Lord Sandilands. And 
now he had lost all ! 

His time was come, he thought. Venit sumrna dies et 
ineluctabile fatum 1 That line remained haunting his brain. 
He felt that matters were closing round him very rapidly. 
"What was that he had read in Lord Sandilands' letter about 
that cursed Brighton business with Harvey Gore 1 He 
could not distinctly recollect ; he would read the letter 
again. He turned round to look for it ; it was nowhere to 
be found. 

He hunted for it high and low ; searched every portion 
of the room again and again ; examined, as people will do 
in the desperation of such circumstances, the most impossible 
places. He did not like to ask Mrs. Jobson about it. If 
she had seen it her curiosity might have been aroused ; she 

might have read it, and then At length he rang his 

bell, and Mrs. Jobson appeared ; and Gilbert saw in an 
instant by her face that whatever might have happened she 
had not read the letter. 

" "When you were good enough to come to my assistance 
just now, Mrs. Jobson, when I had that little attack, 
did you happen to see an open letter lying about '? " said 
Gilbert. 

"A letter, sir?" said Mrs. Jobson dubiously; "there 
were no letter that I saw, 'cept the one in your hand." 

" In my hand 1 " 

"Clinched tight up, as was both your fists, so that I 
could hardly uncrook your fingers ; and in one of 'em there 
was a letter all squeezed up." 

" That must have been it. "What did you do with it ? " 

"Put it on to the table by the window, just as it might 
be there," said Mrs. Jobson, taking an exact aim, and 
marking a particular spot on the table with her finger. 

"It's no good looking there," said Gilbert testily — for 
Mrs. Jobson still kept peering on the table as though she 
expected to see the letter swim up to the surface through 
the wood — " it's not there. What can have become of it V 

2b2 



072 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" Well, now I recollect," said Mrs. Jobson slowty, " that 
I thought you would be all the better for a puff of fresh air, 
so I opened the window, and the paper might have blowed 
out." 

" Good God, womaD, what have you done ! " cried 
Gilbert, starting up and rushing towards the street, pushing 
past Mrs. Jobson, who this time began to be seriously 
aJarmed, thinking her lodger was going out of his mind. 

The street was tolerably empty when Gilbert Lloyd 
reached it. There is not much doing in Duke Street, St. 
James's, in the month of September — a slack season, when 
even the livery-stable-keepers' helpers are probably out of 
town, and there were but few people about to express 
surprise at seeing a gentleman fly out of a house, and begin 
searching the pavement and the kennel with intense anxiety 
and perseverance. In the season, a dozen young gutter- 
bloods, street-boys, would have been round him in a moment, 
all aiding in the search for an unknown something, the 
probable finding of which, if seen, would bring them a few 
■coppers, the possible stealing of which, unseen, might fill 
their pockets. But on this calm September morning a 
■Jew clothesman going his rounds, the servant of a lodging- 
house opposite, and an elderly-gentleman lodger, who 
never went out of town, and who in the winter never 
got out of bed, and who at the then moment was calmly 
looking on at Lloyd's proceedings as at a show, were all 
the spectators of the hunt for the missing paper, in which 
none of them evinced anything but the most cursory 
interest. 

Not so the seeker. He hunted up and down, poked in 
wind-swept corners, peered down rusty gratings, seemed to 
have at one time a vague idea of following the chase up the 
livery-stableman's yard, and glared at the barrel swinging 
in mid-air from the crane outside the oilman's warehouse- 
door, as though it might have sucked up the precious 
document. He must have it, Gilbert Lloyd kept repeating 
to himself; he must have it. But he could not find it, and 
at the end of an hour's search he returned to the house, 
worn out with fatigue, and in a state of feverish anxiety. 

If it had blown out of the window, as the woman had 
suggested, into the street — and the probabilities were that it 
had done so — somebody must have picked it up. There was 



IXELUCTABILE FATUM. 37i 



o x 



no wet or mud to discolour the paper or efface the writin 
it was a peculiar and striking-looking letter, and any one 
linding it would doubtless read it through. If such had 
been the case it was lost — irretrievably, for ever. Great 
beads of perspiration stood upon his pallid forehead as this 
notion flashed across him. His name headed the letter, the 
name of his accuser was signed at its foot, and its contents 
plainly set forth one attempted crime and hinted at the 
knowledge of another, which had been more than attempted, 
which had been carried into effect. Any one reading this 
would see the whole state of affairs at a glance, would feel 
it incumbent on them to give information to the police, and 
— he was a dead man ! What was that Lord Sandilands 
had said about further inquiries relative to Harvey Gore 1 
Foxey had been doing his best to find out something 
definite in that quarter, and had failed ; but then Lord 
Sandilands was a man of influence, with plenty of money, 
which he would not scruple to spend freely in any matter 
such as this. That made all the difference ; they might 
succeed in tampering with that wretched doctor fellow, who- 
plainly had had his suspicions — Gilbert had often recalled 
his expression about the rigor mortis — and there would be 
an end of it. Pshaw ! what a fool he was ! He passed his 
hand across his damp brow, sprang from the chair on which 
he had been sitting, and commenced pacing the room. An 
end of it? No, not yet. He had always had his own 
notion of how that end should be brought about, if the 
pressure upon him became unbearable. Most men leading 
such precarious shifty lives have thus thought occasionally, 
and made odd resolves in regard to them. But there was 
hope yet. He was seedy, weak, and unhinged ; a glass of 
brandy would set him all right, and then he would go off to 
Hill Street, look through the accounts, draw on the bankers 
to the uttermost farthing, and start for America. It was 
hard lines to leave town, where he had played the game so 
long and so successfully. However, that was all over, he 
should never play it any more, and so he might as well — 
better, much better — begin his new life in a fresh place. 

He dressed himself, got into a cab, and drove to Hill 
Street. The house had been left in charge of some of those 
wonderful people who occupy houses during the temporary 
absence of their legitimate owners ; but when Gilbert rang 



374 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

the bell the door was opened, to his intense surprise, by 
Martin, Lord Ticehurst's valet, whom he had left behind 
with his lordship at Baden. 

" You here, Martin ! " said Lloyd, with an astonishment 
mingled with an uncomfortable sensation which he could 
not conceal. " Why, when did you arrive, and what has 
brought you 1 " 

" Arrived last night, sir," said Martin, with a jaunty air, 
very different from his usual respectful bearing. " Came by 
his lordship's orders." 

" By his lordship's orders 1" echoed Lloyd. " That was 
rather sudden, wasn't it 1 " 

" Yes, sir ; very sudden, sir ; done all in a hurry, sir ; 
after a long talk with Mr. Clarke the lawyer, sir." 

" With Mr. Clarke, eh 1 " again echoed Lloyd, feeling 
more and more uncomfortable. " Well, no matter ; it's all 
right, I suppose. Just come up to my room and tell me all 
about it ;" and he was passing on into the house. 

" Beg pardon, sir," said Martin, placing himself before 
him and barring the way ; " beg pardon, sir, but you're not 
to come in ; his lordship's orders, sir." 

" Not to come in ! " cried Lloyd, white with passion ; 
" what the devil do you mean 1 " 

"Just what I say, sir," replied Martin, with perfect cool- 
ness ; " his lordship's orders, sir ; last words he said to me. 
Got a note here for you, sir. Lordship said if you was here 
I was to give it you at once ; if you wasn't, I wasn't to 
trouble about finding you until you came here." 

" Give it here ! " said Lloyd, savagely ; and Martin dived 
in his pocket, fetched out the note, and handed it to him 
with a polite bow. It was in Ticehurst's unformed, round, 
schoolboy hand, which Gilbert knew so well ; was very 
short, but very much to the purpose. It said that Lord 
Ticehurst had given orders that Mr. Lloyd should be denied 
access to the house in Hill Street ; the question ©f accounts 
between them could be gone into on Lord Ticehurst's return 
from the Continent, which would be in the course of the 
ensuing week. Lord Ticehurst would remain a couple of 
days in London on his way to his place in Sussex, and 
would devote those days to settling all matters with Mr. 
Lloyd. It would be advisable, in the mean time, that Mr. 
Lloyd should draw no cheques on the account hitherto 



1NELUCTABILE FATUM. 375 

open to Lis signature ;it Lord Ticehurst's bankers, as Lord 
Ticehurst had given instructions to his bankers to close that 
account so far as Mr. Lloyd was concerned. 

" That's that infernal Clarke's doing," said Gilbert to 
himself; " Etchingham's writing, certainly, but Clarke's 
suggestion and dictation ; Etchingham would not have 
thought of the idea, and could not have expressed it half so 
succinctly. There's a chance yet. That order to the bankers 
could not have been sent by telegram. They would not 
have risked that. Perhaps I'm in time. — Martin, did you 
bring any other letters to England 1 " 

" Yes, sir ; one from his lordship to Messrs. Tilley and 
Shoveller. Delivered it at the bank at nine this morning, 
sir." 

" Thanks ; I'll write to his lordship. Good day, Martin." 
He saw the man bow ironically and stick his tongue in his 
cheek, but he took no notice. He turned round, but had to 
make an effort to gather all his strength together and walk 
away without staggering. The pavement surged up in front 
of him ; the houses on either side threatened to topple over 
him. When he got out of sight of the valet still lingering 
at the door, he stopped, and leaned against some railings to 
recover himself. 

It was all over, then ! The last chance had been tried, 
and failed. A day sooner, and he could have carried out his 
notion of drawing on the bankers and escaping to America. 
That accursed couple — his wife and his brother — had been 
against him in that, as well as in all his other misfortunes 
lately. If he had not waited for that answer from Gertrude, 
— that answer which, when it came, filled him with so much 
anxiety, — he would have gone to Hill Street on the previous 
day, before Martin had arrived, have drawn his cheques, 
and made all square. Curses on them both ! That letter 
from Gertrude — from Lord Sandilands rather — this last 
business in Hill Street had driven from his mind ; but the 
thought of it now returned in tenfold agony. It was lost, 
with all its terrible accusations ! Had been found and read, 
and was probably now in the hands of the police. And he 
had no means for providing for flight. The few pounds in 
his purse were all he possessed in the world. He should bt 
taken, and have to die on the scaffold ! No, not that : he 
knew a better trick than that ver. 



376 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

Once again he had to stop. His legs failed him ; his 
head was burning; he felt his heart beating with loud thick 
throbs. A dizziness came over him, and it needed all his 
strength to prevent himself from falling. After a minute 
or two he felt a little relieved. He called a cab, and was 
driven to his club. The porter was away from his post, and 
his deputy, one of the page-boys, failed to recognize the 
dashing Mr. Lloyd in the pallid man who passed him with 
unsteady gait, and asked him for his name. He went into 
the deserted coffee-room, swallowed a glass of brandy, which 
revived him ; then made his way to the writing-room, and 
wrote a note. It was to a sporting acquaintance of his, who 
happened at the time to be house-surgeon to one of our 
largest hospitals, and ran as follows : — 

" {Private.) 
" Dear Pattle, — A nag that has carried my lord (and 
master) for ten years has become past work, and is dangerous 
to ride. But his l'ship won't give him up, and some day 
he'll get his neck broken for his pains. To prevent this I 
want to put the poor beast quiet y out of the way, and I 
can't trust our vet., who is a blab. Nor do I want to buy 
any ' stuff' at a chemist's, as, if anything came of it, and it 
got wind, chemist might peach. Can you manage to send 
me a small bottle of strychnine by bearer 1 Do so ; and 
the next good thing that comes off, you shall stand in with 
the profit. Keep it dark. 

" Yours, 

"Gilbert Lloyd." 

" That's vague enough," said Lloyd, as he read the letter 
before placing it in an envelope. (i But Pattle's a great ass ; 
he'll be flattered to think he is helping my Lord Ticehurst's 
' confederate,' and he'll have a dim idea that there's a chance 
of making some money — quite enough to make him do it." 
And Gilbert was right. He stopped the cab outside the 
hospital, and sent in the note. Within five minutes the 
porter appeared at the door with a parcel, which he handed 
in " With Mr. Pattle's compliments," and with which Lloyd 
drove off to his lodgings. 

His haggard looks on alighting alarmed Mrs. Jobson, who 
expressed a hope that he had been to see a doctor. This 



INELUCTABILE FATUM. -J I I 

gave him the opportunity for making an explanation which 
lie had been seeking to bring about as he came along in the 
cab. He told the worthy landlady that he had consulted 
his physician, who told him that the attacks, one of which 
she had been a witness to, were highly dangerous, and that 
every means should be taken to check them. With this 
view the doctor had recommended him, if he felt one coming 
on, as was not unlikely, judging from the present deranged 
state of his health, to take a slight quantity of the medicine 
which he prescribed for him, and which would give him 
instant relief. Upon which Mrs. Jobson remarked that of 
course the doctors knew best. She did not herself " hold 
with" sedatives, confessing at the same time that her ex- 
perience as regarded their application was confined to certain 
interesting cases, in which she looked upon the taking of 
them as flying in the face of Providence, which would not 
have sent pain if it was not meant to be endured. 

Gilbert Lloyd retired to his room, and did not see his 
landlady again until about nine o'clock that evening, when 
he sent for her to tell her that he felt a renewal of the 
symptoms of his attack, that he should at once get to bed, 
and that he begged he might not be disturbed. This Mrs. 
Jobson promised, and took her leave. When she was gone, 
Gilbert opened his despatch-box, and commenced the fol- 
lowing letter : — 

"My dear Lord, — You tell me you hear that my 
relations with Lord Ticehurst are at an end, and you ask 
me if I will undertake the management of your stud, and 
personally supervise your affairs. I need scarcely say that 
I am highly flattered by the proposal, thus repeated, I 
believe, for the third time. At present, however, I must, 
in all respect, decline to entertain it. I have been so far 
lucky that my circumstances are such as to prevent any 
necessity for my doing any more work for the remainder ot 
my life, while my state of health, especially during the last 
few weeks, peremptorily forbids my doing anything but 
nurse myself for some time to " 

Here he finished abruptly, leaving the sheet on the 
blotting-pad, by the side of the open despatch-box. 

" They'll not be able to get over that," he said, with a 



37 8 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

shudder; "and the woman's testimony will be concurrent. 
It's an odd thing that a man who can do it should care 
about what people say of him after it's done." 

He shuddered again as from his dressing-case he took a 
small phial of medicine, which he had purchased at a 
chemist's for the purpose, and, from the drawer in which 
he had locked it, the strychnine-bottle, and placed them 
side by side on the table. He then leisurely undressed 
himself, turned the bedclothes back, and rumpled the bed 
to give it the appearance of having been slept in ; then he 
extinguished the light, took the phial of strychnine in his 
hand, lifted it to his mouth, drained it, and with one con- 
vulsive spring managed to throw himself on the bed. 

"And he's quite gone, sir?" inquired weeping Mrs. 
Jobson the next morning of the doctor who had been 
hastily summoned. 

" Gone, madam !" said the doctor, who was a snuffy 
Scotchman of the old school — " he's as dad as Jullius 
Csesar. And this is another case o' the meschief of 
unauthorized parsons doctorin' themsalves and takkin' 
medicines in the dark." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

A LAST MESSAGE. 

"^TfTORDSWORTH has written of one of those beautiful 
V V scenes which he loved so intensely, and with whose 
loveliness he was so familiar — 

" The spot was made by Nature for herself; 
The travellers know it not. * * * 

* * * But it is beautiful, 
And if a man should plant his cottage near, 
Should sleep beneath the shelter of its trees, 
And blend its waters with his daily meals, 
He would so love it, that in his death-hour 
Its image would survive amongst his thoughts.'" 

It was amid a scene to which these lines might be 
applied that Lord Sandilands and his daughter were livino-, 



A LAST MESSAGE. 379 

a year after the death of Gilbert Lloyd — a scene so grand, 
and yet so fall of soft and tender beauty, that an English 
writer, who knew it better than any one except the native 
Swiss dwellers in it, declared it to be, "even amongst the 
wonders of the Alps, a very miracle of beauty." It was 
a nook in the Savoy Alps, near the Valley of the Sixt. It 
had needed both money and interest to enable the old 
English nobleman to make even a temporary " settlement " 
in the remote region ; but he had used both to good 
purpose, when he found that the wounded spirit, the mind 
diseased, of his daughtei", were not be healed by the dis- 
tractions of travelling in the busy and populous centres of 
European life. They had tried many places, but she had 
sickened of all, though she tried hard to hide from her 
father — whose solicitude for her increased daily, as did her 
affection for him — that all his efforts to procure peace and 
pleasure for her were to a great extent ineffectual. The 
young English prima donna — whose brief and brilliant 
career, whose sudden, unexplained disappearance from the 
scene of her triumphs, had been the subject of much talk 
and many conjectures in London — was not identified on the 
Continent with the Miss Keith who kept so much to 
herself, but who was so very charming when she could be 
induced to enter into the pastime of the hour. This was 
the more natural, as Gertrude never exerted her greatest, 
her most characteristic, talent — she never sang after she 
left England. The last occasion on which she had 
"tumbled," as she had said, to a limited but critical 
audience at Hardriggs, was the last appearance of Miss 
Lambert on any stage. Miss Keith looked well when she 
was to be seen, and talked well when she could be heard ; 
but she never sang, and thus a kindly mist diffused itself 
over her identity. 

It seemed incredible to Gertrude that the incidents which 
had occurred, the great emotions she had experienced, the 
various kinds of suffering she had undergone, could all have 
passed over her within so brief a period : that in so short 
a space of time the exterior and interior conditions of her 
life should be so completely changed. She had passed 
through many widely-varying phases of mind since she had 
iefc England with her father : the uncertainty of her life 
over, the necessity for personal exertion at an end, and the 



380 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

death of her husband — horrible and unlamented as it was 
— had produced a great effect upon her. It was like relief 
from torturing, bodily pain, exhausting and constant ; it 
made her feel the need of deep and prolonged rest, quite 
undisturbed and irresponsible. She turned impatiently in 
the great relief of her freedom, from men and cities ; and 
longed for the solitudes of nature, and the release from 
conventionalities, which she felt was needed to complete the 
sense of ber emancipation. Lord Sandilands, who, though 
he had been very well since they left England, was sensibly 
older, and who had gradually come to centre all his interests 
in this woman — who, though a reproach, was yet a constant 
delight to him — instantly obeyed her wishes, and they went 
to Switzerland. The beaten track of the tourists did not 
content Gertrude, whose taste for the wild and solitary 
beauties of nature was thoroughly gratified in the Alp 
region, and at no late period of their wanderings they 
found themselves in the neighbourhood of the beautiful and 
little-known valley of the Sixt. The place had an interest 
for Gertrude, from association with a favourite volume which 
she had read many a time, wondering whether the time 
would ever come when the scenery of the great glacier- 
world should be other than a romantic, unattainable vision 
to her. Lord Sandilands found the air invigorating, and 
though he could not join Gertrude in her explorations, he 
made every possible arrangement for their being effected 
with comfort and safety ; and by means of supplying 
himself with a number of truly English " comforts " — most 
of which were entirely unintelligible to the simple people 
of the district, and caused him to be regarded with more 
than common awe — he established himself very satisfactorily 
at the hospitable hostelry of the Fer a. Cheval, formerly the 
Convent of Sixt. There had always been a good deal of 
philosophical contentment in the disposition of Lord Sandi- 
lands, and under his present circumstances this useful mental 
characteristic grew stronger and more ready at call. Re- 
flecting, as he often did now, upon the past, it had an almost 
amusing effect upon his mind to remember how his time had 
formerly been passed — the people whom he had really 
thought of consequence to him, the things he had cared for 
and taken an interest in. How far away, how along ago, it 
all seemed now — now that he cared for nothing but Ger- 



A LAST MESSAGE. 381 

trude : the memory of Gertrude's mother — ah, what a 
blunder his conduct to her had been, as well as what a sin ! 
— and his dead friend's son, mysteriously involved in that 
sin's consequence. Who remembered him, he thought; and 
whom did he remember of the many who had been his 
associates, and had called themselves his friends? If tidings 
of his death were to be sent to England, how many would 
say or think more than — " Old Sandilands has popped off, 
I hear ; deuced good thing for the parson's son in Dorset- 
shire, nephew or cousin, isn't it ? " None he knew — and 
the knowledge did not pain him — except Miles Challoner. 
And of these phantom friendships, these several associa- 
tions, he had made the pabulum of his life. What utter 
nonsense it seemed now, to be sure, when his daughter, 
sedulously kept out of sight and out of mind during so 
many years, was now the great central truth and occupation 
of his life, and his books and the eternal hills the quiet 
company in which he most delighted ! To the old man, 
too, the time seemed strangely short, though eventful, since 
the whole aspect of his existence had been changed by the 
revelation made to him by his daughter. Since Gilbert 
Lloyd's death he had watched her even more closely than 
before, for the purpose of making up his mind whether she 
should be left in entire ignorance of who the wicked man 
who had blighted her young life, and was now removed 
from it for ever, really was, or whether she should be told 
the truth. He decided that the latter course should be 
pursued if Gertrude pined for Miles Challoner's presence, 
if she made any persistent attempts to break through the 
barrier of separation which circumstances and her own 
consent had placed between them. If change of scene, the 
excitement and interest of travel, and the natural influence 
of her youth and her recovered liberty should produce the 
effect he hoped for, should lead her to remember Miles 
with only a soft, kindly, painless regret, he would not tell 
her the truth at all ; the whole mystery of Geoffrey 
Challoner's life should rest in his grave with him, instead 
of only that dark secret which now Lord Sandilands could 
never by any possibility be forced to divulge. The purpose 
which his dead friend had had in view in imparting it 
to him had been faithfully served so long as the unhappy 
man lived, — it had died with him. Neither Miles nor 



382 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

Gertrude should ever learn that tremendous truth. Lord 
Sandilands took great delight in his daughter's society, and 
sometimes under its influence lost sight of the troubles of 
the past. But the future fate of Gertrude occupied his 
mind painfully. He had never felt very strong since the 
illness he had gone through at St. Leonards, and he had 
become sensible since then that his life was not likely to be 
much prolonged. He had said nothing to Gertrude of his 
conviction on this point, nor had he alluded to it in his 
communications with Miles Challoner. But in the quiet 
majestic region where they had now taken up their abode, 
Lord Sandilands found an influence which attuned his mind 
to very serious thought, and disposed him to the setting of 
his house in order. "What was to become of Gertrude 
when he should be gone 1 The painful and peculiar cir- 
cumstances of her former life disinclined her to seek the 
busy haunts of the world, and her disposition required 
companionship, sympathy, and affection. He could leave 
her in easy circumstances, to be sure, — and he was of much 
too practical a turn of mind to underrate the importance 
of such a power, — but he could not give her security or 
happiness for the future. His heart turned yearningly to 
Miles Challoner as this solicitude troubled him, and he 
wondered whether his daughter's heart turned in the same 
direction. It had not been mentioned between them fur 
long. The death of Gilbert Lloyd had set Gertrude free, 
so far as she knew ; but she felt that the barrier between 
her and Miles existed still. He had loved and wooed her 
under a false impression, and since he had known the truth 
had made no attempt to see or write to her. Lord Sandi- 
lands had not failed to discern that she suffered keenly 
from this cause, but he still believed that she would suffer 
more keenly had she known the truth — the imperative and 
insurmountable reason which prevented Miles from again 
seeking her presence. Thus on this subject — the most 
interesting, the most vital to the father and the daughter 
— there had been silence, and now Lord Sandilands wished 
to break it, but hardly knew how to do so. 

The time since the travellers had set up their rest at the 
Fer a, Cheval had passed tranquilly away, and Gertrude had 
frequently assured her father that she had never enjoyed 
her foreign tour so much as now, when she found herself 



A LAST MESSAGE. ,°>S3 

among the solemn and majestic beauties of the Alpine 
lands, and surrounded only by associations with nature, and 
people of the simplest and most primitive habits. This 
assm*ance, so far as it went, was strictly true, and yet 
Gertrude was not quite happy. It was not altogether the 
shadow of the past which oppi-essed her — it was dark, and 
fell chill upon her, doubtless — but there was an actual 
haunting grief which was more painful even than that. 
She had loved worthily a man worthy of her love, she had 
loved him more than she had known or realized to herself,, 
and he was lost to her now, — a great gulf seemed to have 
fixed itself between them, and she was perforce condemned 
to stand upon the opposite shore and gaze vainly across it 
with longing eyes. What was he doing there, far away in 
the distance beyond her ken ? She did not know, and now 
not to know was becoming unbearable. Had he forgotten 
her? How had he borne the revelation which Lord 
Sandilands had made to him, and which had disclosed to 
him the terrible deception of her life ? Her father had 
conveyed to her an assurance of his perfect forgiveness, and 
told her that he had said, hopeless as his suit was now, and 
void of expectation or happiness as his life must be, he could 
not regret that he had known and loved her. This was all 
she knew, and the need, the strong, desperate desire to 
know more became very potent as the time lengthened, and 
the first shock of her husband's death, with the revulsion of 
feeling it had caused, passed away. Thus it happened that 
by a somewhat analogous process a similar result was 
wrought in the minds of the father and the daughter, and 
it became imminent that Miles Challoner should be spoken 
of between them. 

The occasion arose on a splendid evening, late in the 
summer, when the beauty of the scene amid which they 
lived was at its height, when the peace and the majesty of 
the mountains filled their spirits, and the turmoil of the 
past in their lives seemed an impossible delusion. A time 
to think of the beloved dead with joyful hope as well as 
with poignant sorrow ; a time to make eternity seem true 
and near, and hardly surprising ; a time and a scene to 
soften and refine every feeling, and to put far away the pas- 
sions and pursuits of the common world. Lord Sandilands 
was keenly impressed by this vague and beautiful influence 



384 



THE ROCK AHEAD. 



of nature ; and under the impression reverted, as the old 
do, to the long-past scenes of youth, its pleasures, its 
dreams, its occupations, and its companions. He talked a 
great deal to his daughter that evening of her mother, and 
of his own. The great wrong he had done Gertrude 
Gauthier once frankly acknowledged, and the sincere 
repentance he had come to feel earnestly professed, Lord 
Sandilands had alluded to that no more. Gertrude's 
mother might have been his honoured wife for any tone 
of restraint or difference there was in his infrequent mention 
of her. Then he strayed into talk of the associates of his 
boyhood and his school and college days, and mentioned 
Mark Challoner, the " young Squire " of Rowley in those 
distant days. Here was Gertrude's opportunity, and she 
availed herself of it promptly. 

" Tell me about the Squire," she said, looking up into 
her father's face from her low seat by his side, and laying 
her clasped hands upon his knee. " I should like to hear 
all about him. Miles Challoner used to speak of him with 
the greatest affection and respect." 

" Yes," said Lord Sandilands, " Miles loved his father. 
He was a very good son." 

Seeing that a thoughtful expression spread itself over his 
face, Gertrude was afraid he might lapse again into silence, 
and once more asked him eagerly to tell her about the 
Squire. He did so. He told her of the old times at 
Rowley, of the genialit}', heartiness, popularity, happiness 
of the Squire ; of his pretty young wife, her death, the 
change it wrought in the friend he so loved ; of the long- 
unbroken confidence which had existed between them, only 
disturbed by death ; and as he told the story, and dwelt 
upon the affectionate remembrances which it revived, he 
felt how little death had really disturbed the tie between 
them, how faithfully he had kept his friend's secret, and 
how wonderful it was to think that his own daughter was 
so deeply concerned in it — quite unconsciously. As her 
mobile, expressive face lighted up with interest and 
emotion, he looked at her with deep tenderness and com- 
passion, thinking of the common suffering which linked her 
with his dead friend, and made that secret more important 
to her than even it had been to him. For him it was over 



A LAST MESSAGE. 385 

and done with for ever; for her its baleful and guilty 
influence lingered still. 

" Is Miles like the Squire V Gertrude asked. 

"Yes," replied Lord Sandilands, "like him in face and iu 
character, but of a milder temper. Mark Challoner was 
very hot-tempered in his youth, quick, and impatient. 
Miles is more like his mother in his ways. She was a 
very sweet woman, and a terrible loss to her husband." 

It was a relief to them to have thus slipped into an easy 
and familiar mention of him whose name had been for so 
long unspoken between them. 

"Have you heard of Miles lately, father?" said Gertrude 
quietly, and without removing her eyes from Lord Sandi- 
lands' face. 

" I am very glad you have asked me, my dear," replied 
her father. " I did not like to talk of Miles to you until 
you should mention him first. I have heard from him 
lately, and I don't like the tone in which he writes about 
himself." 

" Is he ill 1 " said Gertrude, with quick alarm in her face 
and in her voice. 

" No, not at all ; but he is thoroughly discontented and 
unhappy. He has tried his very best and hardest to live 
the life of a moral English squire at Rowley, but he cannot 
do it ; he has no heart for it ; and .1 should not be surprised 
any day to hear that he had given up the useless attempt. 
He has not forgotten you, Gertrude ; and he cannot forget 
you." 

" I am glad of that," she said in the same calm tone. 
" I suppose I ought to say otherwise ; but it would not be 
true, and I cannot say it. I deceived him, and was forced 
to disappoint him, and bring a great cross on his life ; but 
I cannot say that I should be glad to know he had for- 
gotten me, and had found elsewhere the happiness he 
thought he might have had with me." 

'■ I am glad you speak so frankly to me," said Lord 
Sandilands, laying his hand tenderly on the shining bands 
of Gertrude's dark-brown hair. " I have been thinking a 
great deal about you and Miles Challoner ; and I should like 
to know exactly how you feel about him." 

The answer was very plainly to be read in her face, but 
Gertrude did not hesitate to give it in words. 

2 c 



386 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

" There is no change in my feelings for him, father," she 
said. " I shall never cease to love him." 

" Would you marry him, Gertrude, if he came to ask you, 
though your marriage should involve your relinquishing all 
connexion with England, breaking entirely, even more com- 
pletely than we have done, with old associations, and making 
quite a new life in a new country for yourselves 1 Don't 
start, my dear, and look so agitated ; he has not told me 
to ask you this. You are not required to give a decision. 
I have asked you for my own satisfaction, because I want 
to know." 

" I would marry him," Gertrude answered, " to go to the 
other end of the world with him, if it did not mean 
parting with you — but that can never be — without a 
scruple, without a regret, without a fear. But he could 
not marry me — have I not deceived him 1 — even supposing 
he cared for me now as he once did. No, no, that is 
over and I must not repine, blest as my life is far above 
my deserts." 

She put her father's hand to her lips as she spoke, then 
laid her soft cheek tenderly upon it. 

" And you think the obstacle which your hard fate raised 
between you and Miles is insurmountable ? " said Lord 
Sandilands, thinking the while of that obstacle of which she 
was unconscious. 

" I think so," Gertrude answered sadly. " Do not you 1 
Have you any reason for thinking it is not so 1 " 

" None that I can make you understand, my child," said 
Lord Sandilands. " But I have a strong conviction — a 
feeling which may not be reasonable, but is irresistible — 
that all this strange riddle of your life will yet work itself 
out to a clear and happy solution in your becoming Miles 
Challoner's wife. I understand the extent and force of the 
objections much better than you do, and give them their 
full weight in the estimation of the world. But (since I 
have been here particularly) I have for some time ceased to 
set very great store by the opinions of the world, and to 
believe that there is much happiness or even satisfaction to 
be got out of conformity to them. I fancy Miles is very 
strongly of my opinion, and in time — not a very long time 
either — I have a perfect conviction that all will be well, and 
that when I leave you I shall do so in better hands than mine." 



A LAST MESSAGE. 387 

Gertrude's tears were falling before her father concluded 
these sentences, which he spoke with much earnestness, 
and for some time she did not speak. At length she 
said : 

" When he writes to you, does he ever mention me ? " 

" Always, and always in the same invariable tone. No 
other woman will ever he offered the place in his home 
which he once hoped would have been yours. This he has 
told me often, and desired I should tell you, if ever, or 
whenever, you should again speak of him to me." 

"He knows we have not spoken of him lately 1" 

"He knows that, and has been satisfied that it should be 
so ; the time that has elapsed since tlie event that set you 
free has not been too long for a silence dictated by pro- 
priety ; but it has expired now, Gertrude, and I think you 
and he might be brought to understand each other, and 
make up your minds, like rational people, what extent of 
sacrifice you are prepared to make to secure the privilege of 
passing the remainder of your lives together." 

" I have it not in my power to make any sacrifice," said 
Gertrude ; " that must come from him, if it is to come at all. 
I wish I had ; but it is he who would have all to forgive, 
all to forego, all to endure." 

Lord Sandilands, with his secret knowledge of the truth, 
felt that she had reason in her words. But he had strong 
faith in Miles Challoner, and confident hope in the result of 
a plan which he had formed, and on which this conversation 
with his daughter finally determined him to act. He did 
not prolong their conference, but bade Gertrude be of good 
cheer, and trust in him and in the future. She gave him 
her ready promise, and a fervent assurance of the happiness 
and contentment of her life with him, and said a few earnest 
words of affection to him, which her father received with a 
fervour which would have astonished himself almost as much 
as it would have surprised his London acquaintances. As 
the shades of evening deepened, silence fell upon Lord 
Sandilands and Gertrude once more, unbroken until he 
asked her to sing to him. She complied immediately (her 
father and the peasants were the only persons who now 
heard the glorious voice which had enchanted the most 
splendid, refined, and critical audience in the world), and 
the rich, thrilling strains soon floated out upon the pure 

2 c2 



388 THE KOCK AI1EAD. 

mountain-air. Her father — lying on a couch beneath the 
window at the end of the long room, which commanded a 
glorious view of the valley leading up to the Col d'Auterne, 
and from whence Gertrude had watched many a sunrise, and 
gazed at many a moonlight scene, such as no words could 
convey a description of — listened to her singing, and was 
transported in fancy back to the long-vanished past. The 
last song which Gertrude sung that night was the first she 
had sung at the concert at Carabas House, when Miles 
Challoner had looked upon her to love her, and Lord 
Sandilands had looked at her and found Gertrude Gauthier's 
features in her face. 

A few days later, when he had considered the matter 
maturely, and made up his mind that in the way which had 
suggested itself to him the happiness of his daughter and 
Miles Challoner might be secured, Lord Sandilands wrote to 
his dead friend's son. The letter was a long one, replying 
fully to the last which he had received from Miles, and 
giving him excellent advice, which the writer was thoroughly 
well qualified to offer, concerning the disposition and manage- 
ment of his property. It contained intelligence of Lord 
Sandilands' health, and a description of the locale and its 
resources. Then it continued : 

"I have purposely avoided mentioning Gertrude to you 
until the present stage of my letter should have been 
reached, because I have much to say concerning her of a 
more serious nature than the details of her daily occupa- 
tions, and. a report of her health and looks. The latter are 
good, the former are as usual. She still retains unaltered 
her pleasure in the mountain scenery, the primitive people, 
and the flowers. She is still the same to me — an affectionate 
daughter and a charming companion. But some time has 
now passed since the death of her unhappy husband, and its 
influence is telling upon her. I have not been blind to the 
change in her ; and a few days ago, for the first time, I 
mentioned you, and elicited from her an avowal which I am 
about to disclose to you, addressing you in my double 
character (and of course without her knowledge) of Ger- 
trude's father and your oldest, and I think I may add truest 
friend. She is still attached to you — and in spite of all the 
sorrow and all the equivocal experiences which have been 



A LAST MESSAGE. 389 

hers, — with a fresh, vivid, and trusting affection, which 
would suffice, or I am very much mistaken in my estimate 
of both of you, to make your lives, if united, happy. I do 
not entertain any doubt that your feelings towards her 
remain unchanged, and it is on this supposition that I now 
address you. You have known me long, my dear Miles, 
and as well as a man of your age can know a man of mine ; 
and when I tell you that I regret more deeply, bitterly, 
and unavailingly than anything else — it is my lot, the 
common one of old age, to look back upon the past with 
vain bitterness and regret — the having hesitated before the 
opinion of the world in doing my duty by the woman I 
loved, and following to a practical issue my own conviction 
of the means by which my true happiness might have been 
secured, you will not suspect me of unduly underrating, or 
carelessly despising the opinion and the judgment of the 
world. The circumstances must be very exceptional in- 
deed under which I would counsel any man, holding a 
fair position in society, and endowed with the duties and 
privileges of a landed proprietor as you are, to defy the 
opinion of society, and to turn his back on those duties 
and privileges. But yours is a very exceptional position, 
and I do counsel you to do both these things. Your 
heart is not in Rowley Court, nor are you capable of ful- 
filling your duties as you are at present. Make new ones 
for yourself, my dear Miles. Yield to the inclination which 
you have partly confessed, and which I have very distinctly 
perceived, and turn your back upon the scene which has 
been overclouded for you since your boyhood by a sorrow 
which has ever been, and must remain, a mystery to you. 
Geoffrey Challoner's crime is buried in the grave of Gilbert 
Lloyd ; but you will never lay its ghost while you remain 
at Rowley Court. 1 am neither a credulous nor a super- 
stitious man ; but I have seen more instances than one of 
the passing away of the 'luck' of an old place, and I feel 
that Rowley Court is one of those from which the old 
'luck' has passed away. So far as leaving the place is 
concerned, I believe my advice will only anticipate, if even 
it does anticipate, the resolution I fully expect to hear you 
have by this time taken. And now to my other point. 
Society in England and English law do not recognize such 
a marriage as that of yourself and Gertrude would be ; and 



390 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

under anything like ordinary circumstances I should be one 
of the first and strongest protestants against such a union ; 
but as I have already said, yours are the most exceptional 
circumstances conceivable out of the region of the wildest 
romance. Your marriage with Gertrude could not injure 
any rights, or offend any principles or prejudices, as no one 
ever likely to see your faces again, or, if you did marry, 
ever to be aware of the fact, has the least notion of the 
existence of those circumstances. Sell the property, leave 
England, and if you still love Gertrude, as she loves you, 
marry her, and seek happiness and home in a foreign land. 
I write now, you must bear in mind, remembering that she 
is entirely ignorant of the complication in your story and 
hers which sets it apart from perhaps any other human ex- 
perience. She regards herself as a faulty woman, who 
deceived the man she loved by an assumption which she 
deems unpardonable, undeniable, even after that wretched 
man's death had set her free. You regard her as still (as 
I believe) the object of your truest love, but parted from 
you by the fact that the man who made her miserable, and 
might have made her guilty had not true love intervened 
to save her, was your own brother, the author of the misery 
which made the latter years of your father dark and cheer- 
less. These are both substantial truths and phantoms, — 
the first in their simple existence, the second in the effect 
they ought to produce on such a mind as yours. The 
misfortunes of your life are irremediable ; but they are also 
past and gone, and the future may still be yours — yours, too, 
without a braving of opinion, a defiance of the world to which 
you would probably not feel equal, if the selection of your 
future course of proceeding were put before you hampered 
with any such imperative condition. You might take 
wealth with you to a foreign land, and the antecedents of 
your wife could never be known there to any one ; here, 
only to me ; and I am ready to give your determination 
to carry out such a scheme as this my warmest appro- 
bation and support, though, if you do it, I must lose the 
society of my child, which is inexpressibly dear to me. 
But I owe it to Gertrude, and still more to Gertrude's 
mother, that I should not rest content with a half-com- 
pensation to my daughter, that she should not be only 
half-happy. I know in what her true happiness would 



A LAST MESSAGE. 391 

consist, and it shall not be wanting through any failure 
of self-denial on my part. My time here is not to be 
long ; perhaps it may be peaceful, and less haunted by 
remorse, if my daughter becomes your wife. I have sinned 
much towards the living and the dead ; and though there 
does not at first sight appear to be any reparation in 
the scheme which I propose, there is a reparation which 
you will understand in part, and I entirely. If I am not 
in error in respect to your feelings, write to me, and 
say that you will join us here, when the necessary arrange- 
ment of your affairs will admit of your coming," 

When Lord Sandilands had written this letter, he did not 
immediately despatch it, but laid it by for a few days, 
during which he deliberated with himself much and secretly. 
But the end of all his meditations, the upshot of all his 
close observation of Gertrude, was a conviction that the 
letter was an exposition of the truth, and ought to be sent. 
Accordingly, on the fourth day after he had written he 
despatched it, and it was fortunate that he had taken and 
acted upon the resolution at the time he did ; for Lord 
Sandilands was not to act upon any more resolutions, or 
play any active part in the affairs of this world any more. 

On the evening of the day on which his letter to Miles 
Challoner had been sent away, and while his daughter was 
singing to him, Lord Sandilands was taken ill with acute 
gout. The attack had many features in common with that 
which had tried him so severely at St. Leonards, but was 
more severe and exhausting. The English doctor from 
Chamouni shook his head and looked very grave from the 
first, — he was naturally a gloomy practitioner, but in this 
instance his gravity was amply justified. There was not 
enough rallying-power in the constitution of the patient, it 
seemed, and the illness rapidly assumed a fatal aspect. The 
intelligence was conveyed, not without humane gentleness, 
to Gertrude, on whom its effect was overwhelming indeed. 
A kind of stupefaction came over her ; she could render but 
little assistance, but she never left her father, and even 
when his exhaustion was greatest he was conscious of her 
presence. 

One day, when the end was only a few hours off, she was 
sitting by Lord Sandilands' bed, holding one of his thin 



392 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

hands in hers, and gazing with looks expressive of such 
anguish as only such a vigil knows, on his sleeping face. A 
slight noise at the door disturbed her, but she merely raised 
her hand with a warning gesture, and did not turn her 
head. In another moment a man's form approached her 
with swift, noiseless strides, and she was silently clasped in 
the arms of Miles Challoner. 

Thus sheltered, thus comforted, her father found her 
when he awoke, and a little while after Lord Sandilands 
died. 



CHAPTER IX. 

TWELVE MONTHS AFTER. 

MORE than twelve months had rolled away since the 
man called Gilbert Lloyd had been found dead in 
his lodgings in Duke Street, when the medical journals im- 
proved the occasion and had a word of advice for the 
general public, and a good many words of abuse for each 
ither, and when the affair created a little sensation ; for 
amongst a certain set Lloyd was very well known, and on 
the whole very much hated for his success in life. The 
fact of his quarrel with Lord Ticehurst had got wind, 
though the cause of it was kept secret, and had been duly 
rejoiced over ; but the man must have had extraordinary 
luck, every one said ; for the newspapers, in their account 
of the inquest, published a hulf- written letter which was 
found in his room, and on which he had evidently been 
engaged when seized with the spasm which he sought to 
allay with that confounded poison, which he had evidently 
taken in mistake for the medicine standing by it, in which 
he alluded to the offer made to him by some nobleman, of 
an appointment exactly like that which he held with Lord 
Ticehurst, and which, the latter said, the state of his health 
made him decline. At the inquest Mrs. Jobson gave her 
evidence as to the fit with which her lodger had been seized 
on the morning previous to his death, and as to the remedy 
which he told her had been prescribed for him ; a practical 
chemist gave professional evidence ; Mr. Pattle produced 



TWELVE MONTHS AFTER. 393 

the letter he had received ; the coroner summed up, and 
the jury returned a verdict that the deceased had died 
from a dose of poison taken accidentally. But this was 
more than twelve months since, and the manner of Gilbert 
Lloyd's death was never spoken of; and the fact of his 
ever having lived was almost forgotten by the members of 
that busy, reckless, stirring world in which he had moved 
and had his being ; that world which calls but for the 
" living present," and carefully closes its eyes against both 
the past and the future. 

That world which never makes the smallest difference in 
its career whether old members drop out of it, or new 
members are caught up and whirled along with it, was 
pursuing its course in very much its ordinary way. The 
Marchioness of Carabas still had a soul which required 
male supervision, and still found somebody to supervise it ; 
though Mr. Pennington's year of office had expired, another 
charming creature reigned in his stead. Mr. Bouldersou 
Munns still drove his mail-phaeton, still told his foreign 
artists that he didn't understand "their d — d palaver," 
and still managed the Grand Scandinavian Opera, though 
Dot with so much success as formerly. There had been a 
reaction after Miss Lambert's secession from the boards ; 
people began to think there was something good at the 
Regent, and went to see ; and the heart of Mr. Munns was 
heavy under his gorgeous waistcoat, and he had half made 
up his mind to retiring from management, or, as he phrased 
it, " cuttin' the whole concern." 

A change had come over one person who has played an 
important part in this little drama — Lord Ticehurst. 
Gilbert Lloyd's place in that young nobleman's establish- 
ment never was filled up, much to the disgust of Bobby 
Maitland, who wrote off directly he heard of the quarrel, 
volunteering his services, and being perfectly ready to throw 
over his then patron, Mr. Stackborough, at a moment's 
notice. But the news of his old companion's death acted 
as a great shock upon the young earl, and those reflections 
which had come upon him during that homeward drive 
from Hastings, after his refusal by Miss Lambert, came 
upon hirn with redoubled force. His life was purposeless, 
and worse than purposeless ; was passed in a not very 
elevated pursuit among very degrading surroundings. He 



394: THE ROCK AHEAD. 

had a name and position to keep up ; and though his brains 
were not much, he knew that he might do something 
towards filling his station in life, and, please God, he 
would. From Mr. Toshington you may gather that Lord 
Ticehurst has carried out his intention. " God knows what 
has come to Etchingham, sir ! " the old gentleman, who has 
grown very shaky and senile, will say ; " you never saw a 
fellow so changed. He's cut the turf and all that low lot of 
fellows — deuced good thing, that ; lives almost entirely at 
his place down in Sussex, and has gone in for farmin', and 
cattle-breediu', and that kind of thing. What does it mean, 
eh ? Well, I don't know, more than that there's never a 
sudden change in a man that I've ever seen, that there 
wasn't one thing at the bottom of it. A woman ? — of 
course ! They do say that Grace Belwether, niece of my 
old friend Sir Giles, is a devilish pretty, sensible young 
woman, and that Etchingham is very sweet on her." 

And Miles Challoner, was he changed ? He was sobered 
and saddened, perhaps ; for a great deal of the gilding, 
which is but gum and gold-paper after all, but which makes 
life seem bright and alluring, had been ruthlessly rubbed 
off during the past two years, and he bore about with him 
what was at once the greatest sorrow and the greatest joy — 
his love for Gertrude. This absorbing feeling influenced 
his whole life, and so engrossed him that he gave up every- 
thing in which he had formerly taken interest, and passed 
his time in recalling fleeting recollections of the happy days 
he had spent in the society of his beloved and in endea- 
vouring to arrange the wildest and most improbable com- 
bination of chances under which those happy days might 
be renewed. Long since he had fled from the " gross 
mud-honey of town " — where almost every place was 
fraught with bitter memories not merely of the loved and 
lost, but of the wretched man his brother, whose career of 
crime had been so suddenly brought to a close — and had 
established himself at Rowley Court in the hope that the 
quiet life and the occupation which his position required, 
and in which he would involve himself, would bring about 
a surcease of that gnawing pain which was ever at his 
heart. 

All in vain. The ghost of the dead Past was not to be 



TWELVE MONTHS AFTER. 



39J 



laid by change of scene ; nor in the clear air of the country 
did the uncompromising Future loom brighter and more 
rosily than it had in murky London. Nor horse, nor dog, 
nor gun afforded the smallest pleasure to Miles Challoner, 
who said " Yes " or " No," whichever first entered his head, 
when his steward made suggestions or asked for instructions, 
and who walked about his estate with his head hanging on 
his breast and his hands clasped behind him, chewing the 
cud of his bitter fancy, and wondering whether this pur- 
poseless, useless existence would ever terminate, and 
whether before his death he should ever have the chance of 
playing a part in the great drama of life. 

One day he took a sudden determination. It was use- 
less, he felt, remaining inert, inactive as he was, ever pur- 
suing a vain phantom, and letting his energies rust and his 
opportunities of doing real good pass by. He was a young 
man, and there was a life before him yet. Not there, not in 
his old ancestral home, hampered by " proud laws of prece- 
dent " and conventionality, dragged down by old memories 
and associations with things bygone, but in the New 
World. "Why should he not yet make his life a source of 
happiness and comfort to himself and others 1 He had no 
sentimental notions about parting with his family acres. 
He should never marry, of that he was firmly convinced, 
and at his death they would go to some one for whom he 
cared not one jot. Better to part with them at once, and 
take the proceeds with him to Australia, where at least he 
should be free from haunting memories of the past, and have 
the chance of making a career for himself. 

This determination he at once proceeded to carry into 
effect, writing to his lawyer, and giving him instructions for 
the sale of the Rowley-Court property so soon as he could find 
a purchaser. Find a purchaser ! It was difficult to make a 
selection. The Wallbrooks and the Wall brooks' friends, who 
had bought land in the neighbourhood on Sir Thomas Wall- 
brook'srecommendation,and the friends who had been staying 
with the Wallbrooks, and thought they would like to have 
property in the neighbourhood — all self-made men who came 
up to London with half-a-crown and were then worth 
millions — all wanted to buy Rowley Court. Eventually, 
however, Miles gave the preference to Sir Thomas himself, 



396 THE ROCK AHEAD. 

and the arrangement had just been concluded between them 
when Miles received the letter with which the reader has 
been made acquainted in the previous chapter. 

In one of the wildest and yet most peaceful scenes of the 
Alpine land, the grave of the English Dobleman was made, 
by his own desire. He had no wish that his remains should 
be brought to England, but desired that they should be 
suffered to remain where his last quiet days of life had been 
passed in the society of his daughter. Under the shadow of 
the rustic church he rested ; and when all had been done, 
Gertrude and Miles found themselves alone. It was a 
solemn time and a solemn occasion ; and their utter isolation 
from all whom they had ever previously known, the strange- 
ness of the scene, and the urgency and uncertainty of the 
future, oppressed them ; while the loss of the best friend 
either had ever possessed so darkened the horizon for 
them, that not even their mutual and avowed love could 
brighten it. 

By Lord Sandilands' desire Miles Challoner had sent for 
his solicitor, who arrived at the Fer a Cheval in time to be 
present at the funeral, and to whom Gertrude confided all 
the papers which her father had with him. Their contents 
were explicit. The greater portion of Lord Sandilands' 
property he had had the power to dispose of, and he had 
left it unreservedly to his daughter. There was no mention 
made of any other person ; and Mr. Leggatt, the solicitor, 
was charged by his late client with the administration of 
the bequest. 

The evening had fallen on the day whose morning had 
seen Lord Sandilands' quiet and simple funeral. Mr. 
Leggatt had explained to Gertrude her very satisfactory 
position in worldly affairs, and had received the few 
instructions she had to give him. He then stated that he 
should be obliged to start on his homeward journey on the 
following day, and inquired Gertrude's immediate intentions 
with regard to her own movements. Gertrude replied that 
she could not tell him until the morning. Then Mr. Leg- 
gatt discreetly retired, and the lovers and mourners were 
left alone. 

" I sent you from me because I have deceived you," said 



TWELVE MONTHS AFTER. 



397 



Gertrude, when the conversation, after long lingering upon 
the details of the past and upon the friends they had lost, 
was flagwin" " And I thought you stayed away and made 
no sign because you could not forgive me." 

"I stayed away because you had been deceived," said 
Miles, " and the time had not come when I could tell you 
the truth and ask you to aid me in making the best of it for 
us both. You know it all now." He took the letter Lord 
Sandilands had written to him from her hand. " You 
know that the miserable man who was to both of us a rock 
ahead through life was my brother — the shame and mis- 
fortune of our family." 

Gertrude bowed her head and covered her face with her 
hands. 

He continued : " All that can be said, except how truly 
and devotedly I love you, is said in this letter — the last 
message of your father, of my best friend. There is nothing 
in England for which we care ; we have no ties there ; we 
are bound to each other only by ties of love and sorrow in 
all the world. No one knows, no one can ever know, what 
that unhappy man was to you and to me. Will you let me try 
to make you forgive and forget it all in a happier marriage ? 
Ours is an exceptional case. The world would condemn us, 
if the world knew all it could, wliich would be only half 
the truth ; we know all the truth, and are free from self- 
condemnation. Say yes, Gertrude ; not to me only, re- 
member, but to him whom we have lost ; and we shall 
never see England any more, or part again in this world." 

Gertrude made him no answer in words. Her head was 
still bowed, and her eyes hidden by one hand ; but she 
placed the other in his, and he knew that she was won. 

Their marriage took place at Berne, and they are lost in 
the crowd. 



THE END. 



WIMAS AMD SOUS, PBIHTEBS, BBEAT (jl'EEM STBEET, LONDON, W.O. 



TINSLEYS' MAGAZINE, 

gut illustrate* Sfeillhrg Ponifclg, 
CONDUCTED BY EDMUND YATES, 

CONTAINS : 

DEAR ANNETTE : a New Serial Story. 

BREAKING A BUTTERFLY; or, Blanche Eller- 

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